PAPEETE, French Polynesia (Reuters) - Residents of French Polynesia who suffered due to 30 years of French nuclear tests in the Pacific archipelago have a legitimate right to compensation, President Francois Hollande said on his first visit to the region on Monday.
The sensitive issue of reparations for damage caused by the atomic testing between 1966 and 1996 at Mururoa Atoll is top of the agenda of Hollande's tour of French Pacific territories.
"If France is what it is today, with this deterrent capability, it is because there were nuclear tests for a very long period," he said on arrival in Papeete.
"It's quite legitimate that France should make good for a number of consequences, whether social, health-related or economic," he said in a joint news conference with Polynesian president Edouard Fritch.
Regional authorities say compensation approved by a 2010 law has been slow to arrive. An anti-nuclear pressure group said only 19 people, of whom just five Polynesians, had received payments.
An annual 150 million euro ($165.2 million) subsidy fixed when President Jacques Chirac ended nuclear tests in 1996 is set to shrink to 84 million euros this year.
Employers and trade unions that manage the regional health fund are demanding 450 million euros in costs for treating people they say are suffering from cancer due to radiation.
(Reporting by Daniel Pardon; Writing by Paul Taylor)