Clark not surprised Mitterand knew of bomb plot

11th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

WELLINGTON, July 11 (AFP) - New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Monday she was not surprised by reports that late French President Francois Mitterrand approved the sinking of the Greenpeace flagship the Rainbow Warrior 20 years ago.

WELLINGTON, July 11 (AFP) - New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Monday she was not surprised by reports that late French President Francois Mitterrand approved the sinking of the Greenpeace flagship the Rainbow Warrior 20 years ago.

Paris newspaper Le Monde reported at the weekend that the former head of France's external spy agency Admiral Pierre Lacoste had said the late president had personally approved the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour.

Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira was killed in the bombing after French agents attached two mines to the ship, which was involved in protests against French nuclear testing.

"We always felt deep down that an operation like that would have to have been approved at the very highest level of the French government," Clark said in a radio interview.

"It is sad to have it confirmed that it went all the way to the president."

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff said Mitterrand's authorisation did not change anything.

"It doesn't change the fact that the French state carried out the only act of terrorism on New Zealand soil. It makes no difference who authorised it," he was quoted as saying in the Dominion Post newspaper.

The document by Lacoste, who was sacked over the affair, represents the first official confirmation of Mitterrand's involvement in the June 10, 1985 bombing.

The Rainbow Warrior was in Auckland to head a flotilla of protest boats to Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia in an attempt to disrupt French nuclear testing, a source of discord between France on one hand and New Zealand, Australia and other Pacific nations on the other.

In the document published by Le Monde, Lacoste described a meeting with Mitterrand at 6.00 pm on May 15, 1985, just under two months before the attack.

"I asked the president if he would authorise me to conduct the project of neutralisation that I had studied at the request of (defence minister Charles) Hernu. He gave me his consent while emphasising the importance he placed on the nuclear tests," wrote Lacoste, then head of the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE).

France was forced to admit its responsibility for the bombing by September 1985. Defence minister Charles Hernu resigned and Lacoste was sacked.

Two members of the 13-strong French secret service team which carried out the bombing, Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart, pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in a New Zealand court and were sentenced to 10 years in jail.

After UN mediation, a July 1986 agreement saw the agents released from jail in New Zealand for what was supposed to be three years' exile on Hao Atoll in French Polynesia.

By the middle of 1988 both had been returned to France, a move which intensified New Zealand's bitterness towards the French government.

On Sunday, a commemoration was held by Greenpeace off New Zealand's coast north of Auckland where the Rainbow Warrior was towed and sunk for a second time to form an artificial reef. The ship's skipper at the time of the bombing, Pete Willcox, dived 25 metres to place a memorial sculpture on the bridge, while above Pereira's daughter Marelle cast flowers into the water.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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