Papeete (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday in Papeete (Wednesday morning in Paris) that France owed "a debt" to French Polynesia for the nuclear tests carried out from 1966 to 1996 in the Pacific.

"I assume and I want the truth and transparency with you," said the head of state in a speech to Polynesian officials, affirming that the victims of these tests should be better compensated.

"The nation has a debt towards French Polynesia. This debt is the fact of having housed these tests in particular those between 1966 and 1974, which we can absolutely not say that they were clean", a- he declared on the last day of his trip to the archipelago.

He did not utter the word "forgiveness" which was demanded by associations of victims of these tests.

After 17 nuclear tests in the Sahara, France in 1966 transferred its firing range to French Polynesia, on the atolls of Mururoa and Fangataufa, where it carried out 193 new tests in 30 years, first atmospheric, then underground.

The last took place on January 27, 1996 after President Jacques Chirac's decision to resume shooting despite the moratorium decided three years earlier by his predecessor, François Mitterrand.

"I want to tell you clearly that the soldiers who made them did not lie to you. They took the same risks (...) There was no lie, there were risks taken that were not were not measured, including by the military, "said Emmanuel Macron.

"I think it's true that we wouldn't have done these same tests in the Creuse or in Brittany," he remarked.

On compensation, he stressed that, at his election in 2017, "11 cases had been finalized" and that "since 187 cases" have been.

"It is a significant but insufficient progress", he judged, announcing that the "deadlines for depositing files will be extended" for the beneficiaries.

In his speech, which began with a few words in Polynesian, the Head of State praised the "unique intimate sensitive pact between the Republic and French Polynesia" despite the "dark hours and the bites of history".

"There is one at the same time" because "you are both deeply Polynesian and deeply patriotic", he added, assuring that he would defend their will to "resist" to "revive and transmit" their culture.

On the economic front, Emmanuel Macron announced a loan of 300 million in support of investments, in particular to develop the airline company Air Tahiti Nui, as well as new tax exemption measures.

After visiting the Papeete hospital on his arrival on Saturday, he again urged the Polynesians to be vaccinated, "the only way out" of the crisis, stressing that of the 230,000 doses sent to the archipelago, 110,000 were still available.

© 2021 AFP