July 9, 2005

French pres ordered Greenpeace ship sabotaged-paper

PARIS (Reuters) - The sabotage of the Greenpeace flagship
the Rainbow Warrior 20 years ago was carried out with the
"personal authorization" of France's late president Francois
Mitterrand, documents showed on Saturday. Le Monde newspaper
published extracts in its Saturday edition of a 1986 account
written by Pierre Lacoste, the former head of France's DGSE
foreign intelligence service, giving the clearest demonstration
yet of Mitterrand's direct involvement in the sinking of the
campaign vessel.

Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira died in the attack
on the ship that was leading Greenpeace's campaign against
French nuclear tests on the Mururoa Atoll in the Pacific.

"I asked the president if he gave me permission to put into
action the neutralisation plan that I had studied on the
request of Monsieur (Charles) Hernu," Lacoste wrote. Hernu was
defense minister at the time.

"He gave me his agreement while stressing the importance he
placed on the nuclear tests. I didn't go into greater detail on
the plan as the authorization was explicit enough," he said.

Lacoste added that he "would not have launched such an
operation without the personal authorization of the President
of the Republic."

The scandal, which triggered Hernu's resignation and
Lacoste's departure from the DGSE, shocked the world and
tarnished France's image in the South Pacific.

Two French agents were later tried and imprisoned for
blowing up the ship in Auckland harbor, New Zealand on July 10,
1985. They began their sentences in New Zealand but were later
transferred to a military base in French Polynesia and were
released within three years of the attack.

Lacoste's account, dated April 8, 1986, is contained in a
23-page handwritten document that has only now come to light.

Ordered by then defense minister Andre Giraud shortly after
France's current President Jacques Chirac became prime minister
in 1986, the document was kept quiet so as not to destabilize
the power sharing agreement, or 'cohabitation', between the
Socialist Mitterrand and Chirac's right-wing government.

The account is supported by documents in the secret
service's archives and others likely to be in Lacoste's own
possession, Le Monde said.