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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Uruguay defends pulp mills plan
Environmental protesters gathered outside the presidential offices in Montevideo
Environmental protesters voice their opposition in Montevideo
The Uruguayan government has made its strongest defence yet of two pulp paper mills it is building that have provoked protests in neighbouring Argentina.

The Uruguayan environment minister told a nationally televised meeting that the two plants on the border would adhere to the strictest standards.

Argentina believes the mills will cause extensive pollution and deter tourism.

The Argentine government has filed a formal complaint over the plants at the International Court of Justice.

The meeting at the presidential offices in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, brought together some 250 political, business and trade union leaders.

Correspondents say it was a clear attempt to show that Uruguay is united on the issue.

Strained ties

Environment minister Mariano Arena said the mills, which are being built near Fray Bentos on the Uruguayan side of the river that separates the two countries, would adhere to the strictest international standards.

Map

He said there had been many studies to show that the plants would not have a detrimental effect on the environment.

The meeting, attended by Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, took place amid tight security, with some 300 demonstrators opposed to the plants kept from the building by police barricades.

The row between Uruguay and Argentina has been continuing for more than a year and has strained traditionally warm ties.

Earlier this month, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner addressed a demonstration in the border town of Gualeguaychu, saying Argentines were "standing together" to solve the issue.

Argentina says there have not been adequate studies into the project's environmental impact.

Uruguayan officials say the mills, being built by a Finnish and a Spanish company, are safe and will provide much needed jobs.




SEE ALSO:
Argentines protest against mills
30 Apr 06 |  Americas
Argentine leader joins mill rally
05 May 06 |  Americas
Bank caution on Uruguay mill cash
12 Apr 06 |  Business
Greenpeace blocks pulp mill boat
03 Mar 06 |  Americas
River row divides former friends
15 Feb 06 |  Americas
Country profile: Argentina
02 Dec 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Uruguay
23 Nov 05 |  Country profiles


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