Nuclear Protests Abroad as Chirac Hosts His First Bastille Day
PARIS (AP) _ Jacques Chirac, cheered at a military parade on his first Bastille Day as president, ignored protests overseas Friday and said France will go ahead with nuclear test blasts in the South Pacific.
At home, French environmentalists kept quiet on a day of celebrations of French cultural and military strength, but held a news conference denouncing Chirac’s planned nuclear testing.
Chirac must ``listen to the clamor that is being heard in the world, including in France, against his unilateral decision to end the moratorium on nuclear tests,″ said Remy Parmentier, chairman of Greenpeace France.
Chirac, a conservative elected in May, announced last month that France would resume nuclear testing after a three-year hiatus initiated by his socialist predecessor, Francois Mitterrand.
At a news conference Friday, Chirac said his decision to conduct eight nuclear nuclear tests from September to May at Mururoa Atoll, 3,200 miles southeast of Hawaii, is ``irrevocable.″
Earlier, Chirac was cheered by waving spectators along the Champs-Elysees as he descended slowly in a jeep-like military vehicle painted with camouflage colors.
The parade featured more than 4,000 Legionnaires and other soldiers marching down France’s most famous boulevard, scores of tanks and 175 aircraft flying overhead, including Mirage and Jaguar jet fighters.
French soldiers who had been peacekeepers in Bosnia also took part in the parade, reflecting France’s deep involvement in the Bosnian crisis. With the largest U.N. contingent in Bosnia and as leader of the new ``Rapid Reaction Force,″ France is considering whether to deepen involvement or pull out.
Chirac joined Premier Alain Juppe, other Cabinet members and VIPs under a large tent at the Place de la Concorde as the annual military parade began under mostly sunny skies.
Bastille Day commemorates the storming by Parisians of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789, setting off the French Revolution that toppled King Louis XVI.
Chirac’s decision to resume nuclear testing in French Polynesia has been denounced by many governments, especially in the Pacific.
Thousands of demonstrators turned out in Australia to demand a boycott of French goods. Protests also broke out in Fiji, New Zealand and Hong Kong, where environmentalists carried signs reading ``Shame on France″ and ``The World Is Not For You to Spoil.″
Greenpeace’s protest ship Rainbow Warrior II, seized by French commandos last weekend as it approached the test site at Mururoa Atoll, was heading back to Tahiti to join Bastille Day protests there.
In Italy, several hundred people gathered near the French Embassy in Rome with a banner reading, ``Less arrogance in the Pacific, more courage in Bosnia.″
Dominique Voynet, spokeswoman for France’s Greens party, was at a Rome demonstration where she said her presence was ``to show that there is another France″ besides one that explodes nuclear bombs.
Outside the French Embassy in Amsterdam, Dutch protesters wearing skeleton masks lined up along the embassy fence as guests arrived for the Bastille Day celebration.
About 50 demonstrators gathered outside the French ambassador’s residence in Bogota, shouting, ``The Pacific Ocean is Colombia’s Too.″
In Paris, Chirac invited 4,000 youths to the traditional garden party at the Elysees Palace.
Natalie Dinis, 20, said she was excited and has ``a lot of hope for Chirac’s government,″ though she said she was ``rather against nuclear testing.″
Friday evening, French synthesizer wizard Jean-Michel Jarre and Algerian singer Khaled performed in a concert at the Eiffel Tower that police said attracted 1.2 million people.