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France is in a frenzy to be friends again with the rest of the world. Especially with the countries in the South Pacific, which have been smouldering with indignation ever since the Chirac government decided to resume underground nuclear tests in French Polynesia. It has joined hands with Britain and the US to sign the Raratonga treaty which pledges to make South Pacific a nuclear-free zone. The South Pacific nuclear-free zone extends from the equator to 60' south. However, 6ance has put its stamp of approval only on the condition that Paris be allowed to finish its series of nuclear tests. The announcement was made by the United Nations and confirmed by officials of all three nations.

The French statement declared that the government believes "that internationally recognised zones free of nuclear weapons can contribute to peace and international security". This is the reason why it has agreed to sign the relevant protocols of the Raratonga treaty during the first half of 1996. The treaty, forged in 1985, bans stationing, testing and stockpiling of nuclear weapons in the South Pacific. The other two members of the nuclear dub, Russia and China, are already signatories to this treaty.

The French gesture has been scornfully dismissed by the hardcore anti-nuclear lobbyists like the Greenpeace International which spearheaded the protest movement against the French tests. it is merely a ploy to ease the pressure of international censure, claims Michael Szabo, spokesperson of the group. But others are in a mood to give erring France yet another chance. Australia, one of the most vocal French-baiters has welcomed the move. The country's environment minister, John Faulkner has urged Paris to now cancel the remaining tests. "It is France that is testing in the South Pacific and it is France that must stop," he said.

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