French Consular Office in Australia Destroyed by Fire

From Associated Press

A French consulate office here was gutted by fire before dawn Saturday, and an anti-nuclear group said it firebombed the office to protest France's plan to resume nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

No one was injured. Police said someone claiming to be from the Pacific Popular Front had called several local media organizations to claim responsibility. Police had never heard of the group and were investigating the claim.

On Friday, about 80 people staged a peaceful demonstration outside the consulate to protest French President Jacques Chirac's decision, announced Tuesday, to resume nuclear testing in September in French Polynesia.

The decision was condemned worldwide, particularly by South Pacific countries, including Australia. It ends a three-year moratorium on tests established by Chirac's predecessor, Francois Mitterrand.

On Monday, Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans will lead a delegation of Pacific leaders to Paris to protest the planned resumption. But Chirac, in Canada for the summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, condemned the firebombing. He reiterated that his decision to resume nuclear testing was "entirely irrevocable."

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