Testing talks fail to pacify Australians

The bomb: Fifty years after the first use of atomic weapons, the Pacific is once again the focus of controversy

ROBERT MILLIKEN

Sydney

French and Australian ministers met on the fringes of a south-east Asian regional forum in Brunei yesterday, but neither side would budge in the worsening row over French plans to resume nuclear tests in the south Pacific.

Michel Barnier, French Minister for European Affairs, said after his "cordial and very frank" meeting with the Australian Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, that the "limited" series of tests did not justify the Australian government's "agitation or its preaching". Mr Evans retorted: "What they have underestimated is that the end of the Cold War created in people's minds a sense that the nuclear era was over. What this did was make people think about the threat all over again."

Mr Evans had led opposition to the tests at the Brunei conference, causing the European Union delegation to dissociate itself from a communique on security issues which urged an immediate end to all nuclear weapons testing.

He said Australia had no plans to follow France's example and recall its ambassador from Paris. But Paul Keating, the Prime Minister, said France was "going to have to wear" bans on doing business in the south Pacific in the wake of Canberra's decision on Tuesday to bar a French company, Dassault, from bidding for a A$1bn (pounds 476m) contract to supply jet trainers to the Royal Australian Air Force.

Within hours of Canberra's ban, the French Foreign Ministry announced that it was recalling Dominique Girard, its ambassador in Canberra, for consultations. On his way back to Paris, Mr Girard said: "We've done no harm to Australia. We have always said that we wanted to keep a very substantial, good, productive and mutually beneficial relationship with Australia. So we consider that the way in which we have been treated, in many respects, wasn't in line with this policy."

Mr Girard's recall was seen in Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific countries as a sign of France's deepening anger over the region's protests at President Jacques Chirac's decision to conduct eight underground nuclear tests at Mururoa atoll. Paris, though, has directed its strongest fire at Canberra. The French Foreign Ministry made it clear that the ban on Dassault was just the latest in a long line of anti-French measures in Australia since June which have worn Paris's patience thin. It cited actions by Australian unions and demonstrators such as mail deliveries blocked to the French embassy in Canberra since 14 July; French ships being delayed in Australian ports; and the refusal by police to clear protesters from the embassy entrance.

"The French government denounces these discriminatory measures, calls for for an end to them, recalls the responsibility of the Australian government to international law, and is examining measures which could be taken in response," the Foreign Ministry said.

Mr Keating said the recall indicated that the French were starting to understand the south Pacific protest. "It is affecting French business and French standing in the region, and the French don't like it. But we don't like their capricious decision to continue to detonate nuclear weapons ... I think this sort of admonition is the price that the French are going to have to wear."

As the controversy swirled, Le Monde reported that General Jean-Claude Lesquer, the officer who organised the sinking of the Greenpeace protest ship Rainbow Warrior 10 years ago, had received one of France's highest awards. He was made a "grand officier'' of the Legion of Honour on 2 July.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Life and Style
love + sex
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot