From: Reuters
Published February 5, 2008 11:10 AM

Hungary says patience at end on Austria pollution

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's environment minister on Tuesday told EU neighbor Austria it must deal with a leather factory that it believes is polluting a river that flows through both countries.

"Our patience is at an end. Austria has to finally come up with a satisfactory solution," Hungarian Environment Minister Gabor Fodor said in a statement that marks the latest salvo in a row over pollution of the Raba river.

The spat last resurfaced in May 2007 when Hungary's president slammed Austria for "cynicism" over polluting the river while Hungary's government called for the revocation of the operating license of the leather factory it says is behind the contamination.

While Austria had refused, the two governments did reach an accord last summer that Austria would clamp down on excessive pollution by the factory and would notify Hungary of any breaches. Hungary says Austria has failed to do this.

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"I will negotiate with my Austrian counterpart that the leather factory in Wollsdorf (also reduce pollution)," Fodor said, adding that two other factories along the river, called Raab in Austria, had already cut pollution below the limit.

He made the comments in a statement after a visit to the river at the town of Szentgotthard near Hungary's border with Austria.

He said recent samples from the river showed the amount of a leather tanning material, which covers the water with white foam, has increased to three times the reading five years ago.

Austria has said the leather factory's water-cleaning facilities were state of the art and the river's water quality met existing standards.

Fodor on Tuesday called for a bilateral environment committee meeting for February 20.

(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs, Editing by Matthew Jones)

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