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Greenpeace Marks French Sinking of Ship

About 500 Greenpeace supporters demonstrated in Paris Sunday, forming a human multicoloured peace symbol to mark the 20th anniversary of the sinking of their ship, the Rainbow Warrior, in New Zealand.

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French agents blew up the ship, killing one person

On July 10, 1985, two explosions on the Rainbow Warrior rocked Auckland's Waitemata Harbour, killing photographer Fernando Pereira. The bombs were planted by French agents, in response to Greenpeace's protests against the French nuclear testing program in the Pacific.

French President Francois Mitterand gave the go-ahead for the attack, Le Monde newspaper in France reported Saturday, quoting from a document written by then secret service (DGSE) chief Admiral Pierre Lacoste.

Francois Mitterrand

Francois Mitterrand

"I asked the president if he would authorize me to conduct the project of neutralisation that I had studied at the request of (Defense Minister Charles) Hernu. He gave me his consent while emphasizing the importance he placed on the nuclear tests," wrote Lacoste, then head of the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE). "I then went into great detail on the project, the authorization was sufficiently explicit."

Earlier on May 6, 1985, Lacoste had met with Hernu to outline the plan to sabotage the Greenpeace ship. "Far from being shocked by the idea of sabotage in the dock at Auckland," wrote the admiral "he made light of my reservations and encouraged me in that direction, repeating that it was an issue essential to defence policy."

"They (Greenpeace) want to make war with us, we are at war, we mustn't have scruples on such vital subjects, I take full responsibility," the admiral quoted Hernu as saying.

Silent tribute

The demonstrators in Paris, wearing the rainbow colors of the organization, had come from about 15 countries and sat or knelt in silence on the esplanade of the Trocadero, across the river Seine from the Eiffel Tower, to form the symbol and mark the event.

"We want to send a message of hope and an appeal for peace," Yannick Jadot, campaigns director for Greenpeace France, said. He called on "international leaders immediately to stop wasting astronomical sums on developing their atomic bombs" and devote instead "their resources to an action programme to promote peace, combat climate change, preserve forests and save the oceans."

In New Zealand members of the original crew gathered to pay tribute to their colleague who died in the explosions and to appeal for world peace.

The original skipper Pete Willcox dived 25 meters to where the wreck of the boat now lies and placed a memorial sculpture on the bridge, while above Pereira's daughter Marelle cast flowers into the water.

In Paris a ship's bell tolled twice, at the moment the two mines placed in the boat exploded. Demonstrators then transformed their peace symbol into a rainbow, displaying a banner proclaiming: "You can't sink a rainbow."

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