Nuclear protest ship seized

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The Independent Online
Papeete (Reuter) - Greenpeace vowed to keep trying to hinder France's nuclear testing programme despite the seizure of its fourth protest vessel off the Mururoa atoll blast site on Tuesday. The yacht Vega was boarded by commandos in the exclusion zone around the atoll days before France was expected to carry out another underground explosion.

"We have a few creative projects up our sleeve. One in particular is extremely interesting," said Lynette Thorstensen of Greenpeace. "Our spirits are not dampened."

The Vega breached the 12-mile exclusion zone around Mururoa with her owner, David McTaggart, founder of Greenpeace, at the helm and another activist and 21 Polynesians on board, Ms Thorstensen said. The Polynesians wanted to "reclaim their ancestral lands" and deliver to authorities on the atoll a protest letter addressed to the French government.

"For over 30 years the French government has seriously harmed our children, islands and oceans," a statement quoted the letter as saying. "We respectfully request that you immediately stop further testing of nuclear weapons on our property and return Mururoa and Fangataufa to us."

Fangataufa atoll, 20 miles from Mururoa, is expected to be the site of the next test, thought to be the biggest of the seven or eight planned before May.

Greenpeace vessels confiscated around Mururoa and Fangataufa include the group's two biggest ships, Rainbow Warrior II and Greenpeace, a helicopter and at least 12 inflatable dinghies.