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The BBC's Barbera Plett
"The leaking oil tanker had already lost the race before it sank"
 real 28k

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"It was an accident waiting to happen"
 real 28k

Monday, 16 April, 2001, 01:59 GMT 02:59 UK
Gulf tanker spill 'under control'
Russian tanker caught smuggling Iraqi oil in February 2000
Smuggling of oil from Iraq is common in the Gulf
The authorities in the United Arab Emirates say they have managed to contain an oil slick from a sunken tanker that had been threatening to cause a major environmental disaster for the Gulf state.

UAE Health Minister Hamad Abdul-Rahman al-Madfa broke several hours of silence to say that coastguard divers had managed to plug holes in the ship through which oil had been pouring.


The ship was en route to a holding area in international waters for sanction-busting ships when it sank

US Commander Jeff Gradeck

He said environmentally safe chemicals were being used to treat the oil slick, which had begun to disperse.

The Zainab, a Georgian-flagged tanker, was carrying 1,300 tonnes of fuel oil when it sank off the port of Jebel Ali, south of Dubai, on Saturday.

All 11 crew members, including the Iraqi captain, are said to have been rescued.

A US Navy official said the vessel was smuggling Iraqi oil in violation of United Nations sanctions.

There were fears that the spill would reach the coastline and the desalination plants which supply Dubai with fresh water.

Intercepted

An Emirates official said the Zainab was a very old Iraqi tanker that was travelling from Iraq to Pakistan.


Smugglers tend to use old vessels that are poorly-maintained, because they know they will lose them if they are caught.

US Commander Jeff Gradeck said the ship had been intercepted several days ago by the Multinational Interception Force that enforces sanctions against Iraq.

It is the 24th vessel to be impounded by the force so far this year.

He said it was on its way to a holding area in international waters for sanction-busting ships when it ran into trouble.

Tankers carrying smuggled Iraqi oil routinely pass through the waters of the Emirates, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Correspondents say the fragile marine environment of the Gulf is regularly under attack from tankers which flush out their holds at sea.

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See also:

26 Feb 01 | Middle East
Powell aims to plug Iraqi oil flow
23 Jan 01 | Americas
Spotlight on oil transport risks
22 Nov 00 | Middle East
Iraq denies oil exports to Syria
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