Paris denies taking risks in Pacific nuke tests

19th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 19 (AFP) - Two French dailies have accused the country's army of knowingly exposing the people of French Polynesia to heightened risks during nuclear tests in the 1990s, a charge denied by the defence ministry.

PARIS, May 19 (AFP) - Two French dailies have accused the country's army of knowingly exposing the people of French Polynesia to heightened risks during nuclear tests in the 1990s, a charge denied by the defence ministry.  

"We say in the most formal way... that all of these allegations are baseless," defence ministry spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau said Thursday.

"The conditions under which the people of French Polynesia were protected at the time of the atmospheric nuclear tests were strictly the same as those applied to military personnel conducting the tests," the spokesman said.  

On Wednesday, the left-leaning newspaper Liberation - citing a "secret military document" - said France has "concealed the risks that nuclear tests posed to the Polynesians" and had not protected citizens during a 1966 test.  

Le Figaro newspaper on Thursday published excerpts from "secret documents" indicating that the preventive evacuation of the Gambier islands in the Pacific Ocean was ruled out for "political and psychological reasons".  

For 30 years, French Polynesia provided Paris with a site for nuclear tests on the Pacific atolls of Mururoa and Fangataufa, west of the Gambier islands, where a total of 193 tests took place - 41 atmospheric and 152 underground.  

In 1995, newly elected President Jacques Chirac opted to resume nuclear testing, a controversial decision that sparked anger at home and abroad, especially in Australia and Japan.  

Six tests took place before Paris ended its testing program.  

Bureau said France had nothing to hide about how it treated Polynesians during the testing period, saying it had turned over all relevant documents in 1988 to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog.  

The defence ministry spokesman did not directly challenge the documents cited in the French media, but called for caution with respect to how they were interpreted.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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