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 Friday, 17 January, 2003, 11:45 GMT
Minister quits in Prestige row
Catalan clean-up volunteer at work on Galician coast
The clean-up will cost Spain one billion euros
The Prestige oil tanker disaster has claimed its first political scalp with the resignation of a minister in the Spanish region of Galicia.

Xose Cuina
Cuina: Groomed as Galicia's next president
Xose Cuina, Galicia's public works minister, quit on Thursday to fight accusations that a company owned by his family sold the regional government equipment to clean up oil from the sunken tanker.

He says the company donated the equipment free of charge.

The Prestige broke up and sank off Galicia on 19 November, devastating the local fishing industry, and covering hundreds of beaches with oil.

Metal containers

Mr Cuina was being groomed to take over from Galicia's president, octogenarian Manuel Fraga, the only active politician left from the regime of the late dictator, General Francisco Franco.

Mayor of Bordeaux takes part in clean-up
Oil has also been washing up in south-west France
Mr Fraga has been severely criticised for his handling of the Prestige crisis.

The company owned by Mr Cuina and his brothers and sisters provided metal containers worth 36,000 euros ($38,000), to hold oil recovered from the polluted coast.

It is estimated that 25,000 tons of oil from the 26-year-old single-hulled tanker have polluted the seas bordering the Spanish, Portuguese and French coasts.

Another 53,000 tons are believed to remain inside the ship, which is still slowly leaking.

Spain seeks compensation

Spanish media reports suggest that Mr Cuina's resignation reflects divisions within Spain's governing Popular Party, to which he belongs.

The party's leaders in Madrid are reported to want to overhaul the Galicia branch of the party when Mr Fraga retires, and are not keen on Mr Fraga's plans for Mr Cuina to replace him.

The Spanish Government said this week that cleaning up the Prestige oil spill will cost at least one billion euros ($1.1 billion) - excluding the cost of tax rebates and work on the sunken tanker.

Spanish Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro described the spill as "one of the worst ecological and economic disasters in [Spanish] history".

He said he had written to the European Commission suggesting the creation of a special EU fund to pay for the clean-up, and, among other things, to compensate Spain for its expense.

Spain's coast and maritime fauna are threatened by the oil spill from the break-up of the Prestige

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03 Jan 03 | Europe
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