Anti-nuclear activists marked the anniversary of the French revolution with demonstrations around the world Friday, and some governments boycotted official Bastille Day celebrations to register anger over President Jacques Chirac's decision to resume nuclear tests. The French leader remained defiant at a Bastille Day news conference, telling journalists his decision was 'irrevocable' and that Paris would follow through on its plan to conduct eight nuclear tests on the tiny Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific. As the traditional Bastille Day military parade got under way on the Champs Elysees, some 50 militants from the Trotskyite Revolutionary Communist League staged an anti-nuclear demonstration. They waved banners and shouted slogans opposing the nuclear tests before being arrested by police. Some 4,000 soldiers, 175 planes and helicopters and 364 military vehicles took part in the Bastille Day parade Friday, which coincidentally comes just two days before the 50th anniversary of the first successful test of the atomic bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. Bastille Day marks the start of peasant involvement in the French revolution. On July 14, 1789, French peasants stormed the Bastille prison in Paris and freed the inmates. The anniversary is celebrated as France's national day. Anti-nuclear protesters took advantage of the celebration to stage demonstrations from Dublin to Sydney. Many governments joined in the protest, directing their diplomats to stay away from Bastille Day celebrations thrown by French embassies around the globe. Australian diplomats and Cabinet members shunned official celebrations of Bastille Day, while the New Zealand government announced it would send a research ship to the nuclear test site in French Polynesia.
Chilean Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza said Santiago also had decided to largely boycott the Bastille Day ceremonies. He said the only Chilean representative at a Bastille Day event would be an undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, who would attend official celebrations in Chile. 'It has been a very grave problem for us, to such an extent that I have decided the ministers and I will not attend the July 14 events,' said Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza. French embassies became the target of worldwide protest. In the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, a small group demonstrated. 'We want to express our opinion about French nuclear testing in the Pacific -- we are not happy about it...,' said Jason Roberts, a U.S. citizens who joined the protest. In Singapore and Australia, The Body Shop, an international cosmetics retail chain, distributed petitions calling on Chirac to abandon France's first nuclear tests in more than three years. Chirac, who took office last month, has said France must conduct the test to ensure the safety andreliability of its weapons, but it has pledged to join in signing an international test ban treaty next year. France's position has drawn little sympathy, particularly in Asia and the South Pacific. 'It is ironic that as France invokes the spirit 'liberty, equality and fraternity' on Bastille Day, the French military is trying to prevent us from exercising our democratic right to protest,' said a statement issued the by the Greenpeace ship Vega, whose crew members said their boat was buzzed by a French military helicopter near Mururoa. The Greenpeace environmental group has stationed boats off Mururoa, about 5,000 miles (8,000 km) east of Australia, since last week. An 'armada' of private yachts from New Zealand was preparing to join the seaborne protest at Mururoa, organizers said Friday. At the least 13 boats were expected to leave New Zealand for Mururoa Atoll. The New Zealand government said it would probably send a scientific research ship on lease from the United States to the South Pacific atoll to keep an eye on the fleet of privately owned yachts and other protest ships. In other demonstrations: --More than 5,000 people marched in the streets of Sydney, snarling traffic in the Australian city. --In Canberra, two people were arrested as 600 people protested outside the Entertainment Centre, where French Ambassador Dominique Girard was hosting an official Bastille Day luncheon. --The Australian government banned all Cabinet ministers from attending Bastille Day function. --In New Zealand, four people were arrested as more than 1,000 protested outside the French ambassador's residence in Wellington. --In Bonn, members of Germany's environmental party Alliance 90/The Greens protested in front of the French Embassy. About 40 people took part in the protest, some of them carrying signs with the image of a nuclear mushroom cloud above the French word, 'Non.' --In London, six people on stilts dressed as the grim reaper led 100 protesters in a Greenpeace demonstration outside the French ambassador's residence. --In Dublin, 70 Greenpeace activists blocked access to the French ambassador's residence, where a Bastille Day party was being held in the afternoon. The demonstrators, wearing T-shirts saying 'End the nuclear age,' lay down on the road pretending to be dead. --In Brussels, several dozen demonstrators protested outside the French Embassy, which was holding a Bastille Day reception for all local French citizens. The protesters included Greenpeace activists and members of the Belgian green party Ecolo. --In Santiago, protesters planned to demonstrate outside the French Embassy and to stage a march through the center city.