An embarrassed French government appointed a special Cabinet committee Monday to reassure the French population in the face of a bitter controversy over the government's failure for more than a week to inform the people about the increased radiation coming from the Soviet nuclear plant disaster in Chernobyl.
In a scathing editorial, Gerard Dupuy of Liberation, an influential Paris newspaper, accused both the right-wing government of Premier Jacques Chirac and the Socialist presidency of Francois Mitterrand of lying to avoid offending French farmers and the French nuclear power lobby. Dupuy said that Minister of Environment Alain Carignon was guilty of "cowardice or incompetence or both."
France, a country where nuclear weapons and nuclear power are not a political issue, seemed a serene exception to the rest of Europe where governments, under the prodding of environmental lobbies, fretted about the danger to people and food from increased radiation. It seemed as if an American joke about France had come true-President Mitterrand and Premier Chirac, just as they had refused permission for American warplanes to fly over France en route to bomb Libya last month, had refused the same permission to the Chernobyl radiation cloud.