STORY: French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday (May 24) that he would delay a voting reform that had triggered deadly riots on the overseas French territory of New Caledonia.

Macron spoke in the Pacific island's capital Noumea after a day of meetings with local political leaders.

"I made a commitment for this reform not to be implemented by force in the current context, and that we would give ourselves a few weeks to be able to allow for a return to calm, the resumption of dialogue, with a vision towards a general agreement."

At least six people have died in more than a week of protests, triggered by anger at electoral reforms passed by lawmakers in mainland France to let more French nationals vote in New Caledonia's elections.

The island's indigenous Kanak people fear the move will dilute their votes and make it harder for any future referendum on independence to pass.

Macron arrived on the Pacific island Thursday (May 23) for talks with local leaders meant to turn the page on the violence.

After a helicopter flyover of areas wrecked by arson, he said that the state of emergency would be lifted once protesters remove their roadblocks.

And he said his ultimate aim was still to sign the controversial measure into law once calm was restored.

"This reform, although it's rejected by some here, which has fed the violence, it has democratic legitimacy. The bill proposed by the government has been voted with a clear majority, both in the National Assembly and in the Senate. I say this as president, we don't just throw away popular sovereignty like a mere piece of paper."

Macron said he would take stock of the situation "within a month."

New Caledonia is the world's third largest miner of nickel, but the sector is in crisis.

One in five residents live below the poverty threshold, and economic inequalities on the island are stark.