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New Zealand, France Go to Arbitration in Rainbow Warrior Case

October 30, 1989

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ France and New Zealand are going into secret arbitration to end a dispute arising from French sinking of the Rainbow Warrior at Auckland and a settlement is expected by Saturday, diplomats said.

The Rainbow Warrior yacht was sent by Operation Greenpeace to lead a flotilla protesting French nuclear testing in the South Pacific. French agents mined the ship July 10, 1985. The Rainbow Warrior sank and a Portuguese-born Dutch photographer who was aboard was killed.

The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said arbitration before a tribunal begins Tuesday. They said they expect the arbitration to be wrapped up by the weekend, but the decision will not be announced until later.

The tribunal met on Monday but only to discuss procedural matters, said a New Zealand official, speaking privately.

New Zealand says France violated a 1986 agreement meditated by Secretary- Gene ral Javier Perez de Cuellar by letting two French agents convicted in the bombing leave detention before their terms ended.

Uruguayan law professor Eduardo Jiminez de Arechaga heads the panel, which also consists of French appointee Jean-Denis Bredin and New Zealand appointee Sir Kenneth Keith.

Attorney-General David Lange, the former prime minister, will lead New Zealand’s legal team.

The two French secret agents who sank the ship, Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur, pleaded guilty to arson and manslaughter in November 1985 and were sentenced to 10-year prison terms by a New Zealand court.

Perez de Cuellar later mediated a settlement under which France paid New Zealand $7 million in compensation, and New Zealand agreed to commute the prison terms if the two agents were detained on a French atoll until the end of 1989.

In 1987, however, Mafart returned to France, complaining of a stomach ailment. In 1988, Ms. Prieur went home because she was pregnant. France flew both agents home and both received promotions on their return.

New Zealand protested and wants the two returned to custody.

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