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"No" vote well ahead in New Caledonia independence referendum

"No" vote well ahead in New Caledonia independence referendum
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By Euronews with Reuters
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The French Pacific islands of New Caledonia began voting on Sunday on whether to become an independent nation.

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The French archipelago of New Caledonia in the South Pacific voted 59.5% against independence from France in a referendum on Sunday, with two-thirds of the ballots counted, local TV station NC La 1ere reported on its website.

It said that the participation rate stood at 80.7%.

Full results were due from 1130 GMT onwards. The referendum, the result of a 30-year long decolonisation process, is the first auto-determination vote to be held in a French territory since Djibouti in the Horn of Africa voted for independence in 1977.

Some 18,000-kilometres from the French mainland, New Caledonia is home to a quarter of the world's known supplies of nickel – a vital electronics component – and is a strategic foothold for France in the Pacific.

The participation rate was 41.8% at midday, compared to 27.3% at the same time during local elections in 2014, the High Commission said on Sunday.

175,000 people are eligible to vote in the remote islands fringed by spectacular beaches, with opinion polls predicting a large majority in favour of staying French.

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