Rainbow Warrior bombing scandal sails again

28th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Nov 28 (AFP) - France tried to blame Britain's foreign intelligence agency MI6 for the 1985 bombing of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand, infuriating British officials, according to official documents published Monday.

LONDON, Nov 28 (AFP) - France tried to blame Britain's foreign intelligence agency MI6 for the 1985 bombing of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand, infuriating British officials, according to official documents published Monday.

Calling for firm action to end the French government's "debilitating campaign of smear", one Foreign Office official wrote that stories in the French media implicating MI6 "probably resulted from efforts by the DGSE (the French intelligence service) to divert attention from themselves".

The revelations were published Monday by the Guardian newspaper, which obtained the documents through the Freedom of Information Act.

French agents, on government orders, planted bombs on the Rainbow Warrior in July 1985 while the vessel was in a New Zealand harbor on its way to block a French nuclear test in the South Pacific.

The attack killed one crew member and created a scandal in the French government, which denied the bombings for more than two months.

Soon after the bombing, French news media began to report the theory that British agents had sunk the Rainbow Warrior and framed French agents to discredit France.

The Sunday Times told the British Foreign Office in late August 1985 that "French official sources were briefing freely 'anyone who would listen' about British involvement in the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior".

Malcolm Rifkind, then a junior foreign minister, instructed British diplomats in Paris to tell the French government to end the "campaign of misinformation".

When the stories continued, the British complained to the French again, who denied the reports.

On September 4, 1985 a Foreign Office official wrote: "Despite all these protestations of innocence, the cumulative evidence from many quarters of French official briefing now seems irrefutable."

He recommended stronger action to end "this debilitating campaign of smear".

Though British officials were angry at being implicated in the bombing, the British ambassador in Paris, Sir John Fretwell, warned that the scandal threatened to topple then French president François Mitterrand.

"The highest personalities in the land are fighting for political survival and even the fabric of the state is beginning to shake under the impact of repeated revelations, denunciations, attempts to acknowledge bits of truth while concealing others ... and the desperate attempts to find answers which will somehow satisfy public opinion while keeping the president above the melee," the ambassador wrote, according to the documents.

Mitterrand survived the scandal, but his defense minister and the head of the secret service were sacked, and two French secret service agents were jailed after pleading guilty to the attack.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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