A coalition of countries, including Japan, is preparing to lead a barrage of protests against French nuclear testing in the South Pacific at this year's UN General Assembly which opens next week.
Informal negotiations have already started in New York between countries representing most regions of the world on a resolution to chastise France for pursuing its test programme at Mururoa in the face of worldwide condemnation. The text would go to a vote by the full assembly towards the end of the year.
Several countries confirm that the testing will be raised by their governments when their foreign ministers attend the assembly later this month, and when their heads of state and government address a special session in October to mark the UN's 50th anniversary. Declarations of disapproval at such a high level would cause Paris even more embarrassment than the resolution itself.
The French President, Jacques Chirac, has privately expressed concern to the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, over the reception he is likely to get at the special session. "He asked what kind of birthday cake the UN is likely to give him", one UN source said.
French officials insisted, however, that Mr Chirac still plans to come to the commemorative meeting, to be addressed by the leaders of every UN member state with the exception of Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Libya's Muammar Gaddaffi. Each leader will be allotted only five minutes to speak.
"I cannot imagine that he would not come, but we do expect some trouble," a spokesman for the French mission said yesterday. "We will see how we deal with it, but the President will remind the General Assembly that it hasn't the right to deal with this policy, as it is an internal matter."
The resolution's sponsors, expected to include Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Colombia, will be anxious to win support from some European countries, breaking European Union solidarity with France. It remains unclear whether France will be singled out. China is also still testing and some countries are concerned that if the language is brutal, Paris might withdraw support from a second, more general resolution, backing the completion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
t Geneva - Britain yesterday joined the US and France in pledging support for the comprehensive test ban, AP reports. The decision increased pressure on China and Russia, the other two nuclear powers, to say whether they would also agree to the total ban as the deadline for an agreement approaches. The British commitment before the Conference on Disarmament came as the body was assessing efforts to complete the complicated negotiations on a global ban before the end of next year.
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