Rainbow Warrior Readies For New High-Seas Protest; Flotilla on Way
PAPEETE, Tahiti (AP) _ The Rainbow Warrior II took on supplies and supporters Thursday as a ragtag flotilla sailed to meet the Greenpeace ship for one more high-seas protest before France’s planned nuclear tests.
On an earlier protest voyage, the ship was rammed by a French warship and boarded by commandos July 9. On Thursday, it was heading again to Mururoa Atoll and was expected to arrive early next week.
Despite protests by activists and governments, French President Jacques Chirac has given no hint he will drop plans for as many as eight underground nuclear tests in the French Polynesian atoll beginning in September.
More than two dozen other boats, yachts and traditional island canoes left Fiji on Thursday for Mururoa, 750 miles southeast of Tahiti.
``We hope the French will hear us,″ said Adi Finau Tabakaucoro, a Fiji senator who helped charter the 400-ton ship Kaunitoni for the protest.
France plans to complete the tests in May at Mururoa and Fantagaufa atolls in time to sign a test ban treaty next year. Paris contends it needs the tests to update its nuclear arsenal and develop computer simulations to avoid further testing.
The French government rejects claims the testing could contaminate the Pacific with radioactivity.
Meanwhile, a New Zealand navy ship reached the French 12-mile exclusion zone around Mururoa Atoll. The Tui, an unarmed oceanographic vessel, will attempt to monitor the tests as well as anti-nuclear protests.
A French naval patrol boat made radio contact with the Tui and arranged to hold talks later Friday. The Tui has orders to monitor the situation around the atoll but not to enter the exclusion zone.