Corsica nationalists ready for talks
16 September 2006, AJACCIO (AFP) - Two nationalist groups on the troubled French island of Corsica on Saturday rejected political violence as a "bad choice" and said talks with the government were necessary to put an end to it.
16 September 2006
AJACCIO (AFP) - Two nationalist groups on the troubled French island of Corsica on Saturday rejected political violence as a "bad choice" and said talks with the government were necessary to put an end to it.
Their leaders' statement came within hours of an anti-tank rocket was fired at a riot police barracks in the main city Ajaccio and two days after a bomb blast damaged the offices of the island's tourism promotion agency.
President Nicolas Sarkozy had offered to hold talks with the nationalists late last month, but said they must recognize Corsica as part of France.
Corsica has been plagued by more than 30 years of low-level violence waged by separatists opposed to French rule.
The latest attack threatens to widen the conflict on the island "when Corsica needs real dialogue and a political solution", Jean-Christophe Angelini, secretary general of the nationalist Party of the Corsican Nation and a local leader, told AFP.
"This is not the right way but a bad choice, a strategy of rupture to which we are opposed and a way to say 'we're against any dialogue' when everybody needs it," added Jean Biancutti, a member of the island assembly.
Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie branded Saturday's rocket attack as "cowardly" and "absolutely stupid".
The two moderate nationalists on Saturday held their first joint press conference to reply to Sarkozy who had made his first official trip to Corsica as president on August 28.
"We must create the conditions for a new dialogue between Corsica and the French government which in turn must show clear signs that it is ready for dialogue ... to end escalating repression and prepare a genuine political solution," said Angelini.
Sarkozy had said during his visit his government was "ready to welcome those who want to hold open talks" but added that "we must be clear -- there will be no compromise."
Sarkozy notably took aim at "mafias and racketeers" that he said were undermining the island's economic development.
"I love Corsica too much to abandon it to these mafias. We will not be weak toward racketeers, bombers and hostage-takers. We cannot compromise on the values of the republic," he said.
Separatist bomb attacks frequently target buildings associated with the French mainland, such as police stations, banks and post offices, as well as holiday villas owned by non-Corsicans.
With its 260,000 inhabitants, the island remains one of France's poorest regions.
Subject: German news