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Paris beefs up New Caledonia police amid fresh unrest

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-08-06

The French government has decided to send police reinforcements to New Caledonia as clashes between security forces and protesters flared up again in the French Pacific territory, causing injuries to two policemen and four activists.

AFP - France decided to send police reinforcements to New Caledonia on Wednesday in a bid to end week-long clashes with protesters angry over the jailing of a union leader in the Pacific territory.
   
A unit of 70 gendarmes will be joining four others deployed on the archipelago by the end of the week, said an official from France's department for overseas territories.
   
Two gendarmes and four protesters were injured in clashes earlier between security forces and union activists, with the worst violence taking place bear the main city Noumea.
   

Youths and members of USTKE, a union representing the indigenous Kanak population, fired at police from behind barricades made of burning tyres.
   
The two police officers were shot and wounded, officials said. A total of 13 people were detained.
   
Activists have for the past week stepped up protests over the jailing of union leader Gerard Jodar for an attack on New Caledonia's domestic airport in May, carried out by USTKE as part of a dispute with airline Air Caledonie.
   
The union wants the airline to pay them for strike days.
   
In the past week, more than 30 gendarmes have been injured in the clashes, and several businesses have been forced to shut down because of union blockades.
   
"The Aircal dispute is a pretext. What USTKE really wants is to create tension," said High Commissioner Yves Dassonville.
   
Located around 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) from Australia, New Caledonia has a unique status among France's overseas territories.
   
Under a 1998 accord, the archipelago won a high degree of autonomy that should lay the groundwork for a referendum on independence some time after 2014.

Date created : 2009-08-05

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