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The Press : France Drops a Diplomatic Bomb

June 20, 1995

Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water.

France's decision a week ago to resume nuclear testing in the South Pacific after a three-year moratorium triggered a cloud of protest from major European powers and New Zealand, Australia and other governments in the test area.

Jacques Chirac, France's new, conservative president, said France will halt the testing program in the fall of 1996 and sign the international test ban treaty.

Below the Equator, the explosion of anger was immediate. New Zealand Foreign Minister Don McKinnon said Chirac displayed "Napoleonic-De Gaulle arrogance" in declaring that eight nuclear explosions will rattle testing grounds in French Polynesia north of New Zealand beginning this September.

In Australia, the French consulate said its fax machine was turned off after more than 100 complaining messages arrived.

In Washington, the White House said the United States "regrets this action."

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