Monday, March 1, 1999 Published at 10:48 GMT
World: Middle East
Turkish dam gets UK support
The UK Government has said it will underwrite a controversial dam project in the Kurdish area of Turkey.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is backing the UK company Balfour Beatty with £200m in a bid to build the Ilisu Dam on the River Tigris.
The project has been criticised by environmentalists, the World Bank and Turkey's neighbours.
The dam's reservoir will drown dozens of Kurdish towns along the Tigris valley, including the historic town of Hasankeyf.
The World Bank refused to participate in the project because of fears it would increase the danger of cross-border conflict with Turkey's neighbours to the south.
Turning on tension
Turkey controls the Tigris and Euphrates headwaters which Iraq and Syria depend on for fresh water.
Both Baghdad and Damascus have complained about the amount of water they have been getting since the completion of the first Turkish dams at the beginning of the 1990s.
They fear Turkey's ability to shut off their water supply in any possible future conflict.
Tony Juniper of the UK-based environmentalist group Friends of the Earth said: "We have to stop this project before the British Government is party to fermenting war in the Middle East."
In the late 1980s, Balfour Beatty was involved the controversial Pergau Dam project in Malaysia.
The dam was criticised as unsuitable on environmental grounds and because the UK aid package to build it was tied to Malaysia continuing to buy arms from UK weapons manufacturers.