Greenpeace Founder Loose On French Nuclear Test Site, Group Says
PETER JAMES SPIELMANN
Jul. 11, 1995
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Greenpeace says its founder and two companions have succeeded in infiltrating France's nuclear test site in the South Pacific and are roaming Mururoa Atoll undetected by French authorities.
Rainbow Warrior II captain David Enever said Monday by satellite telephone that David McTaggart and two comrades slipped into the atoll Sunday on an inflatable speedboat while French commandos seized the protest ship.
``They are in the area. I wouldn't be any more specific than that,'' he said.
McTaggart, a Canadian who founded Greenpeace, was last seen with Dutch New Zealander Henk Haazen and Australian Chris Robinson as they disappeared into the atoll's lagoon, Enever said.
They took emergency locater beacons, transponders, very high frequency radios and a global positioning system with them.
``They could hang out for a month or a month and a half,'' Enever said.
Enever would not say what McTaggart planned to do but said one of the options was to disrupt planned tests on Mururoa, 650 miles east of Tahiti. France has set off more than 130 atmospheric and underground nuclear tests there since 1966.
McTaggart launched his inflatable ``zodiac' speedboat from his protest yacht Vega when the French navy boarded Rainbow Warrior II a few miles away as it entered Mururoa's 12-mile territorial limit Sunday.
Truncheon-wielding French commandos swarmed over the Rainbow Warrior II, tear-gassing the crew to subdue them. A French tugboat rammed the boat, damaging its bow.
The raid took place 10 years after scuba divers from the French secret service mined and sank the original Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbor, New Zealand, killing a photographer aboard the ship. That ship, also, was in the area to protest French plans to conduct nuclear tests.
The crew of the 180-foot Rainbow Warrior II were taken ashore at Mururoa and detained for questioning for about 10 hours, then released without charges being lodged. The ship sailed into international waters Sunday night.
French authorities welded a steel plate over the hole they made in the starboard side of the Rainbow Warrior after the ramming, Enever said.
Enever said he did not think the French had intended to sink the Rainbow Warrior II. The ship's watertight integrity had not been compromised and there was no danger to the ship or crew.
He said the French had impounded three of the ship's inflatable boats, leaving it with only one.
The boats were being kept by the French on the atoll and would reduce Rainbow Warrior's ability to protest.
``It doesn't stop us but it does limit us with only one boat,'' Enever said.
The Rainbow Warrior II is accompanied by McTaggart's sailboat Vega, and the Bifrost, a Danish fiberglass-and-steel replica of a Viking ship. Both those ships stayed outside the 12-mile limit during Sunday's raid.
France's prime minister, Alain Juppe, on Monday defended the raid as the penalty for trespassing in France's territorial waters.
The ship's voyage was intended to call world attention to French plans to set off eight underground nuclear test blasts between September and May, abandoning a moratorium former Socialist President Francois Mitterrand declared in 1992.
The testing plans, announced in June by the new conservative French president, Jacques Chirac, have set off widespread international protests.