The French defense minister and French military leaders apparently knew of a plot to blow up the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand, the authoritative Paris newspaper Le Monde reported today.
It said the mining of the vessel, in which a Portuguese photographer was killed, was carried out by a previously unmentioned “third team” of two French combat frogmen who escaped unnoticed from New Zealand.
The newspaper said Defense Minister Charles Hernu; Gen. Jeannou Lacaze, then armed forces chief of staff, and Gen. Jean Saulnier, then President Francois Mitterrand’s personal military adviser, “apparently were in the know, having either authorized . . . (or) allowed to take place . . . an operation conceived to prevent the ecologist campaign and send a warning to Greenpeace.”
The Ministry of Defense, asked to comment on the story, would say only that “everything is and will be done to reveal the truth.”
The Rainbow Warrior was to take part in a protest against French nuclear testing in the South Pacific when it exploded in July in Auckland Harbor.
Can’t Know Details
Le Monde said “it is impossible to know if the three (officials) are directly implicated or simply involved because of misunderstandings or things left unsaid during discussions on Greenpeace.”
Le Monde said Mitterrand himself did not know in advance of the operation.
The newspaper qualified its revelations by using the conditional tense and noting that its sources for the story were “not disinterested” and included the French political opposition.
It said the two French secret service agents being held in New Zealand on charges of murder were decoys and that the three secret service agents on board the yacht Ouvea, also identified in an official report, supplied equipment to the combat frogmen who actually placed the charges under the vessel.
It said the men returned to France unnoticed, one via New Caledonia and the other via Australia.