Protests Across World Amid Report of Imminent Nuclear Test
PAPEETE, Tahiti (AP) _ Amid reports that French nuclear tests in the South Pacific would begin today, protesters in the Tahitian capital stormed the airport to demand that the testing be called off.
Koken Nosaka, a Japanese government spokesman, cited a ``reliable source″ who said the first test of at least seven planned tests could come at 2 p.m. EDT today, Japanese and French media reported.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War also said it believed the test would come today. Program manager Michael Christ said the information was based on discussions with senior advisers to French President Jacques Chirac.
``It wasn’t stated explicitly, but that was the sense they got in their discussions,″ Christ said. ``The indication was that they were going to test today.″
France has said it will conduct seven or eight nuclear explosions deep beneath Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls between September and May. Officials have refused to give specific dates.
Chirac contends the tests are needed to develop technology to simulate future tests by computer. He says he will sign a global test ban treaty after the tests, a promise that has done little to stop the outcry.
Some 620 miles west of the test site and across the international date line, about 30 protesters, most of them women, occupied the military runway next to Papeete’s international airport for about two hours Thursday, waving signs and banners.
Some 60 riot police forced them off the tarmac, and despite a few scuffles the demonstration ended peacefully.
In Paris today, police arrested about 30 anti-nuclear protesters who defied a ban on a planned demonstration and tried to form a human chain.
In Lausanne, Switzerland, about 20 protesters occupied two French diplomatic offices today to protest the tests. Demonstrators at the consular offices put a sign on windows saying the facility was ``closed because of nuclear tests,″ police said.
The protests foreshadowed bigger rallies expected Saturday, when about 100 legislators from Japan, Europe, Australia and New Zealand plan to join up to 15,000 activists in Papeete.
U.S. Congressman Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, a Democrat and ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, boarded the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior II, part of the protest flotilla, on Thursday in a show of protest.
Faleomavaega said France has ``no right to sit 15,000 miles away and explode nuclear bombs _ actually weapons of genocide _ in the midst of the Pacific.″
In Sydney, Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans conceded there was no way to stop the French tests, but vowed that Australia would keep lobbying against them.
``The campaign won’t be over until the last of the bombs have gone off,″ he said.
If the blasts do occur today, the first to detect the huge shock waves will be the New Zealand navy, which has underwater monitors on a ship that has joined an anti-nuclear flotilla near the test site.
Next will probably be a group of American seismologists at Alice Springs in Australia’s Outback, where highly sensitive monitors are buried in a shaft 200 feet deep.
``We’ll pick up any blast from Mururoa within 11 minutes and 29 seconds,″ said U.S. Air Force Col. Jim Matthes, the commanding officer of the Joint Geological Geophysical Research Station.