France’s New Version of Ship Blast Draws Some Skepticism

Times Staff Writer

Politicians and newspapers Thursday greeted with skepticism the new French government version of the Greenpeace affair that puts all the blame on officials below President Francois Mitterrand and Premier Laurent Fabius.

Some political analysts, however, said Fabius may have defused the affair by insisting that he was kept in ignorance while former Defense Minister Charles Hernu and the former director of intelligence, Pierre Lacoste, concocted the scheme to bomb and sink the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand last July 10.

The vessel, which was to have led a protest against French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific, has been refloated at Auckland and may be repaired.

Furor May Dissipate

French analysts say that while the press may be skeptical of the premier’s account, it will have a hard time trying to prove that Fabius is not telling the truth. And, unless the press does come up with new evidence, the present furor may dissipate.

Fabius received a boost when Hernu refused to comment. Hernu, the mayor of Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon, told reporters outside his office, “I have no comment to make, neither now nor this evening nor tomorrow nor in a week.”


Hernu, who resigned as defense minister under pressure last week, previously has denied ordering the sinking, and he could weaken the government’s version with continued denials. Lacoste has refused all public comment on the affair since his dismissal last week.

Meanwhile, a good deal of anger was reported among the armed forces as a French court formally charged five military men with threatening national defense by leaking information about the sinking to the French press. If convicted, all could face 20-year jail terms.

The five were identified as Col. Joseph Fourrier, Capt. Alain Borras, Warrant Officer Richard Guillet, Master Sgt. Bernard Davier and Capt. Paul Barril, all reportedly past or present agents of the General Directorate of External Security, the French intelligence agency.

Other military men were reportedly angry about the charges because they believed the act was a blatant attempt by the government to intimidate them from discussing the case with the press.