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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 January 2006, 22:50 GMT
Egypt grants 'toxic' ship passage
By Heba Saleh
BBC News, Cairo

The French warship Clemenceau
French warship, Clemenceau is due to reach India in March
The Egyptian authorities have approved the transit through the Suez Canal of a decommissioned French warship.

They said they were satisfied the vessel, the Clemenceau, posed no hazard to Egypt's environment.

Greenpeace says the ship is carrying hundreds of tonnes of asbestos and should not be allowed to reach its destination, an Indian scrapyard.

Greenpeace charges that the ship will endanger the health of Indian workers who will work on it in Gujarat.

The Egyptian authorities decided to allow the Clemenceau to sail through the Suez Canal after a three-day standoff.

They say documents received from France make it clear the aircraft carrier does not come under international agreements banning the export of toxic waste.

'Workers at risk'

The vessel has now entered Egyptian territorial waters and it is due to be inspected by experts and officials before it goes through the canal.

The environmental group, Greenpeace, says the Egyptian decision is scandalous. It has accused Cairo of giving in to French pressure.


Two protesters from the group had boarded the 40-year-old ship on Thursday claiming that its asbestos insulation posed a hazard to health and the environment.

Greenpeace has been fighting for months to block the transfer of the Clemenceau to India because of concerns over the health of the workers at the Gujarat scrap yard who will dismantle it.

The French authorities say the ship has already been decontaminated with 15 tonnes of asbestos removed, but Greenpeace charges that hundreds of tonnes remain.

An Indian court commission has recommended that the ship should not be allowed in Indian waters.

A court ruling is now awaited.

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