Mitterrand shifts Africa policy, plans to restore Soviet ties

France won't drive Libya out of Chad, President Francois Mitterrand says. In a rare television interview Sunday the French President told millions of viewers in France and in French-speaking countries that he would not fight ''for a few oases.'' Mr. Mitterrand also announced his opposition to the militarization of space and hinted at a warming of French-Soviet relations.

The declarations represent a modest refocusing of French foreign policy. Mitterrand pledged continuing help for France's former African colonies but said the Africans must help themselves.

While denouncing the continuing Libyan presence in Chad, he said it was up to Chad's President, Hissein Habre, to reconcile warring factions in the south and to reconquer the north. French troops will help him only if Libyan troops move south from their present positions.

A more balanced approach to the superpowers is also likely. After coming to power in 1981, Mitterrand halted regular French-Soviet political consultations. He also broke with the French tradition of silence on NATO issues by supporting the deployment of US missiles in Europe.

With the missiles in place and the US moving toward talks with Moscow, Mitterrand says he is confident he can restore good French-Soviet relations.

Foreign Minister Roland Dumas reportedly will go to Moscow early next year to prepare for a visit here by Soviet leader Konstantin U. Chernenko. The French have security and commercial concerns to discuss with the Soviets. Due to large purchases of natural gas, France's trade deficit with Moscow has soared. The French want to renegotiate the gas contract and export more to the Soviets.

On security issues, the French want to encourage the coming arms talks in Geneva between the two superpowers. But Mitterrand said he would not allow bargaining over the French nuclear missile force.

He criticizes the US plan to develop space-based defensive missiles. Mitterrand said the program adds to the arms race instead of moving toward disarmament.

Mitterrand also discussed the Pacific territory of New Caledonia, where native Kanaks are demanding independence and European settlers want to maintain ties to France. Mitterrand said the territory must be ''emancipated,'' either under autonomy or complete independence.

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