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Last Updated: Friday, 30 December 2005, 18:23 GMT
Asbestos ship 'can sail to India'
The French decommissioned nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Clemenceau
The Clemenceau: Decommissioned since 1997
An old French warship lined with asbestos has been cleared to travel to India to be dismantled, after a judge dismissed objections from green groups.

State lawyers said the Clemenceau was now free to begin its journey.

Green groups had petitioned against the transfer, saying Indian ship-breakers were not properly equipped to deal with asbestos, which can cause lung cancer.

The French company charged with dismantling the ship said the workers' health "will be taken into account".

A judge at the Paris administrative court ruled that Greenpeace and three anti-asbestos groups had raised "no serious doubts" about the legality of the transfer.

'Thousands of deaths'

"In theory, the Clemenceau can leave," said Joel Alquezar, lawyer for the French state.

Authorities in Toulon, where the decommissioned aircraft carrier is berthed, said it was ready to leave as soon as the green light was given.

Campaigners said they would appeal.

"We may not be able to stop it from leaving, but the Clemenceau won't necessarily make it all the way to India," said a spokesman.

It is due to be taken to the world's biggest ship-breaking yard in Alang, in north-western India.

Greenpeace says almost half of the world's ships are sent to India when their days are over, but that ship-breakers are poorly regulated and have few measures to protect workers from industrial accidents or dangerous substances.

It said several thousand people had died in accidents in ship-breaking yards over the past 20 years - not including deaths from long-term contamination.

The Clemenceau took part in the 1991 Gulf War, but was replaced in 1997 by the new nuclear-powered carrier, the Charles de Gaulle.

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