From: Associated Press
Published January 13, 2006 12:00 AM

Greenpeace Activists Board Ex-French Warship Saying It's Carrying Toxic Waste to India

PARIS — Two Greenpeace activists boarded a decommissioned French warship Thursday to protest its departure for India for dismantling, saying it carries hundreds of tons of toxic waste.


The activists chased down the carrier Clemenceau in the southern Mediterranean, near the entrance to the Suez Canal, and climbed the ship's mast, Greenpeace's France office said in a statement.


The activists were urging Egyptian authorities to refuse it access to the canal. Greenpeace wants France to take back the ship, saying the Clemenceau holds hundreds of tons of toxic waste, including 500 tons of asbestos.


Egyptian environmental officials have demanded that the ship submit certificates required under the Basel Convention -- an international pact on trade in potentially hazardous waste -- to prove it is free of any harmful substances before it is allowed to enter the Suez Canal, said Ahmed Ageeba, the honorary French consul in Port Said.


French Defense Ministry spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau told Europe 1 radio Thursday night that Egyptian authorities had asked France for "clarifications about the technical conditions of the passage through the canal."


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He said that the ship had not been refused passage and that the Egyptian query was standard.


Bureau also said that most of the asbestos had been removed from the ship before its departure.


The French Defense Ministry said in a statement that the Greenpeace action would not hinder the ship's itinerary. The ministry said that naval authorities did not intervene to stop the activists.


The ship is being towed to the Alang ship-breaking yard in western India's Gujarat state, where it is expected to arrive in March.


A monitoring panel of India's Supreme Court said last week that the ship is not welcome in the country's waters and that France has violated international agreements in sending it to India.


Source: Associated Press


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