By Tracy Sorensen
Peace and environment activists have hailed as a major victory the French government's announcement on April 9 that it would suspend nuclear testing in the Pacific for a year.
Stephanie Mills, who led Greenpeace's recent expedition to France's nuclear test site at Moruroa atoll, said: "This is the best environmental news there's been in years. We are glad that 20 years of consistent campaigning has paid off."
Greenpeace called on the Australian government to mount a diplomatic initiative to end nuclear testing worldwide.
Sydney Peace Squadron, a group which has, with Paddlers for Peace, met French nuclear-armed ships in Sydney Harbour to protest against the testing, said: "This victory shows that you can fight City Hall and win. How many people have said that our protests are futile? We kept up the pressure, and it worked."
Between 1960 and 1989, France staged 41 atmospheric and 128 underground tests.
The French Socialist Party's decision to stop testing has been seen as an attempt by new Prime Minister Pierre Beregevoy to tap into the growing environmental vote. In regional elections in March, the Greens and Ecology Generation won 14.6% of the vote against 18.3% for the Socialists.
The Peace Squadron and Paddlers for Peace will be out on the water again on May 1, to protest against the arrival of nuclear-armed US warships led by the USS Independence. Phone 316 5790 for more information.