French Free Foreign Lawmakers Aboard Anti-Nuclear Yacht
PAPEETE, Tahiti (AP) _ France has freed eight foreign lawmakers and all others who had been aboard a protest yacht seized near France’s nuclear test site in the South Pacific.
Commandos from a French navy vessel boarded the yacht La Ribaude on Saturday after it entered an off-limits zone around the Mururoa atoll.
The yacht had been part of an anti-nuclear flotilla sailing around the atoll, 750 miles southeast of Tahiti.
It was chartered by Greenpeace, which had two vessels impounded by the French military last week for entering the zone just before France detonated the first of eight planned underground nuclear tests on Tuesday.
The lawmakers freed Sunday were Koh Tanaka and Noboru Usami from Japan, Eva Goes from Sweden, Lino De Benetti and Sauro Turroni from Italy, Jup Weber from Luxembourg and Tom Wheelwright and Ian Cohen from Australia.
The other people aboard the ship _ environmentalists, journalists and crew _ were also released and flown back to Papeete on Sunday.
A French military spokesman, Lt. Col. Yves Bourboulon, said prosecutors will decide whether anyone would be charged with breaching the exclusion zone. Bourboulon said he did not know what would happen to the yacht.
France’s nuclear blast on Tuesday provoked international outrage and led to riots in Papeete. The tests have also helped to revive the independence movement in French-ruled Tahiti.
On Sunday, President Jacques Chirac of France accused Australia and New Zealand of having an ulterior motive behind their campaign against his nuclear test plans: to oust France from its territories in the South Pacific.
Today, Prime Minister Paul Keating of Australia termed Chirac’s accusation ``ridiculous.″
``We have always said a constructive French presence in the Pacific is a welcome one,″ he said. ``The politics of the Pacific is a matter for the people of these French territories and the government of France to work out over time.″
Chirac blasted Australia for not aiding poor Pacific countries and asked why Australia was selling uranium to France if it opposed the tests.
Gordon Bilney, Australia’s minister for Pacific Island affairs, said Australian uranium sold to France was only used for power plants, not for weapons.
Chanting ``no nukes here,″ about 50 people marched peacefully to the French embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, today to deliver more than 7,000 signatures protesting the nuclear tests.
The demonstration was organized by The Body Shop, a cosmetics retailer based in England and active in environmental issues. Most of the protesters were Body Shop employees.