Rainbow Warrior in the past, says French FM

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Alain Juppe said Friday he was focussed on the future, not the past, as he became the first French foreign minister to visit New Zealand since French agents sunk the Rainbow Warrior in 1985.

Juppe was in Auckland for talks with Prime Minister John Key and senior international officials at the Pacific Islands Forum.

"It's been a good opportunity for me to be in Auckland for the Pacific Islands Forum, it was a very successful meeting," he said.

Asked if relations were still impacted by the sinking in Auckland of the Greenpeace ship after a bomb set by French intelligence agents exploded, he said: "It's a long time ago, so let's look to the future, not the past.

"I think the situation is now beyond us," he added.

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 in the South Pacific.

Former prime minister David Lange described the bombing, which killed an activist, as "a sordid act of international state-backed terrorism" but 25 years later relations between the two countries are back on an even keel.

The ending of French nuclear testing in 1996 removed the main cause of friction between the two countries with Juppe the most senior French politician to visit New Zealand since then-foreign minister Claude Cheysson in 1983.

Juppe heads to Australia on Saturday for talks with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on international security, nuclear safety, the G20 summit and other issues.

His two-day trip to Sydney and Canberra will also be the highest-level visit by a French government official to that side of the Tasman Sea in nearly three decades.

© 2011 AFP

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