Some New Caledonians want to end dispute by becoming 51st state

Some New Caledonians want to solve their Pacific island's troubles by joining the United States as a 51st state called New California. The Friends of the United States (Amis des Etats Unis -- AEU) have written to President Reagan asking him to take over the territory, which is beset by violence between white settlers and indigenous Melanesians seeking independence from France.

``New Caledonians never forget the American forces who came in 1942 to protect us from the Japanese,'' AEU president Roger Ludeau said. He has nostalgic memories about the 300,000 US troops who passed through New Caledonia in World War II, when it was a base for Gen. Douglas MacArthur's push in the Pacific.

``All the people here love the United States. We want to become part of it -- New California,'' he said.

A veteran of World War II fighting in Africa and Italy, he added that until mid-November, the AEU was just a veterans' association with about 300 members.

But he said its numbers had swelled to about 4,000 since the Melanesians -- known as Kanaks -- stepped up their drive for independence.

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