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France - New Caledonia

New Caledonia government collapses in row over flags

The coalition government of New Caledonia collapsed on Thursday after members of a pro-independence party withdrew in a dispute over the French Pacific island territory’s flags. 

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The Caledonian Union accused the head of the territory’s administration, Philippe Gomes, of reneging on an agreement struck last July to fly the Kanak flag, a symbol of the indigenous population, alongside the French tricolour.

New Caledonia was a French territory until 1999. But the 1998 Noumea Accord resolved that powers of government would gradually be transferred from France over the following 15-20 years.

The agreement also states that the territory should hold a referendum on full independence from France between 2014 and 2019.

The congress is due to elect a new government on 3 March but Gomes said his party would resign in the hope of forcing Paris to call an election in the territory.

The 230,000-strong island group is divided between Kanaks, a Melanesian ethnic group who make up about 44 per cent of the population, and ethnic Europeans, who make up 34 per cent.

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