New Caledonia government collapses in flag row

17th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

The coalition government of New Caledonia collapsed on Thursday after members of a pro-independence party quit in a row over the French Pacific island territory's flags.

The Caledonian Union accused the head of the territory's administration, Philippe Gomes, of not respecting an agreement struck last July to fly the Kanak flag alongside the French tricolore.

The New Caledonia congress will elect a new government on March 3, but Gomes said his party would resign in the hope of forcing Paris to call an election in the territory.

The 230,000-strong island group is deeply divided between Kanaks, a Melanesian ethnic group who make up about 44 per cent of the population, and ethnic Europeans, who make up 34 per cent.

New Caledonia is to hold a referendum on full independence from France between 2014 and 2019.

© 2011 AFP

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