Toxic Trade News / 14 February 2006
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Clemenceau has dangerous waste: French official
by (India)
14 February 2006 (Paris) – A French government overseer said Monday that an asbestos-bearing warship being sent to India for dismantling is dangerous waste and should not be broken down there, lawyers said.

The opinion by government commissioner Yann Aguila, a judicial official, increases the likelihood that France's Council of State, the top administrative body, will halt the transfer of the Clemenceau, said environmental lawyers who attended a hearing on the matter in Paris.

The Clemenceau, currently in the Arabian Sea, left the French Mediterranean port of Toulon on Dec. 31. The French Defence Ministry said the ship was carrying 45 metric tons of asbestos, but the Greenpeace environmental organization said it was carrying at least 700 metric tons of asbestos.

French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Monday that falsehoods have been spread about the asbestos aboard Clemenceau.

Speaking on France-Info radio, she vowed to "re-establish all of the truth" after Supreme Court - which is deciding whether to allow the ship into India - makes its ruling.

Aguila, an independent government overseer whose opinions are typically accepted by the Council of State, said assurances by Alliot-Marie ‘do not alleviate’ doubts about the amount of asbestos aboard the vessel.

The Council of State is to decide this week whether to honour Aguila's request that the disused French warship return to France or go to another industrialized country to be dismantled.

Aguila recommended that the ship not go to such countries as India that are not members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development - a group of 30 mainly industrialized nations - said the lawyers, who represent environmental groups angry about the ship's transfer to India.

Earlier Monday, India's Supreme Court said it has asked for advice from the Indian Defence Ministry before deciding whether to allow the Clemenceau to go to a western Indian ship breaking yard.

The court barred the vessel from entering Indian waters until it had reached a decision. Experts from the Defence Ministry will attend the next court hearing Feb. 17.

Indian and French news media have written extensively about the transfer. Indian trade unions and the environmental group Greenpeace have demonstrated against allowing the warship into the country.

Environmentalists and trade unions in India have demanded that France decontaminate the Clemenceau before it is dismantled there.

The French ambassador to India, Dominique Girard, said after visiting the ship breaking yard last week that France would take back asbestos-containing material if India requests it.

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