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Last Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005, 02:30 GMT 03:30 UK
End protest, Brazil bishop urged
By Steve Kingstone
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Paulo Afonso waterfall
Diverting the water will harm the environment, the bishop says
A Brazilian bishop on hunger strike in an attempt to stop an environmental project has been urged to end his protest by the country's president.

In a letter, President Ignacio Lula da Silva called on Bishop Luiz Flavio Cappio to begin eating again.

The bishop has been refusing food since last Monday.

He says he will only eat if plans are scrapped to divert water from the Sao Francisco river to four arid states in Brazil's north-east.

Friends of the bishop say he is relaxed but determined to see through his protest, even at the cost of his own life.

Controversial project

The government says 12 million people will benefit from the water project, but opponents argue that the scheme is designed only to help big agricultural businesses, and that diverting water will reduce the capacity of dams to generate electricity.

Paulo Afonso power plant
The Sao Francisco river also provides hydroelectric power

The bishop has said his life is in the hands of Brazil's President.

Over the weekend, a presidential envoy was sent to the remote town of Cabrobo to deliver the letter.

In it, President Lula explained that the project had not yet received final approval from Brazil's environment agency, and that dialogue was still possible.

But on Sunday, a spokesman for the bishop told the BBC that the letter had offered nothing concrete and that the hunger strike would continue.

Bishop Cappio insists he will only eat again when he sees a presidential decree formally abandoning the river project.

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29 Sep 05 |  Americas
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