French President Macron puts New Caledonia voting reform bill on hold

French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to New Caledonia on Thursday and spent the day trying to find a way to end more than a week of riots. He held a news conference in the capital Noumea on Friday and said, for now, he will not force through the legislation that sparked the unrest.

Macron added it is his wish that, in a month, the violence will come to a stop and that a general agreement between people in the South Pacific territory will have "moved forward."

Lawmakers in the French parliament provoked the riots last week by passing a new bill. They want to expand voting rights to include people who have lived in the territory for at least 10 years.

However, pro-independence groups -- mainly the indigenous Kanak people, who make up about 40 percent of the population -- oppose the plan. They fear the changes could favor voters who are pro-France.

Macron deployed thousands of security personnel to stop the riots. He said they will stay "as long as necessary" to restore order.

He asked leaders on both sides of the divide to appeal for calm and to start talking again. He said he is willing to wait a few weeks for them to come up with a solution, although he added that the voting reform bill is not something to "just throw away."

Macron acknowledged that many residents face more discrimination. Some in the Kanak community say people talk of equality, but they themselves believe it has "never existed."