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Corsica Rejects Autonomy Referendum - 2003-07-06


Corsicans have narrowly rejected a referendum that would have given the Mediterranean island more autonomy from France and possibly ended years of separatist violence.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy announced Sunday 51 percent of Corsicans voted against the proposal while 49 percent voted for it.

A "yes" vote would have merged the island's two existing administrative regions into one body, and given it more control over public services currently run by Paris, including taxes.

Corsica would still have remained part of France.

French President Jacques Chirac urged Corsicans to vote yes, hoping it would have ended 30 years of pro-independence violence.

But others believe the Corsican economy could not flourish without stronger French involvement.

Corsica, located about 160 kilometers southeast of France, has been part of France since 1768. It may be best known as the birthplace of the emperor Napoleon.

Sunday's vote came just two days after French police captured the country's most wanted fugitive: Corsican separatist Yvan Colonna. Police arrested him during a raid on a Corsican sheep farm.

Mr. Colonna is wanted for the 1998 assassination of the highest-ranking French official on the island, Prefect Claude Erignac He has denied involvement in the murder.