French President Francois Mitterrand, in a dramatic announcement, told a national television audience Wednesday that he will fly to the troubled French territory of New Caledonia to try to persuade the antagonistic racial groups there that their only hope for peace lies with Paris' offer of limited independence.
The situation in New Caledonia has set off a bitter political debate in France. The rightist opposition has accused the Socialist government of Mitterrand and Premier Laurent Fabius of abandoning the large white French population. It regards the plan for independence with French association as a subterfuge for turning power over to the Kanaks.
Leftist newspapers, on the other hand, have raised doubts about the government's version of the killing of [Eloi Machoro]. The government has said that gendarmes, intending to wound, not kill, fired on Machoro when he and a band of armed Kanaks threatened a white farm and opened fire on the gendarmes. [Kanak] leaders have denied that Machoro was threatening anyone and have accused the gendarmes of killing Machoro in cold blood.