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Monday, 14 February, 2000, 22:36 GMT
Media concern at cyanide spill

Danube boatman The cyanide spill reached the Danube on Monday

Hungary's newspapers have adopted a sober tone over the cyanide pollution threat to its Danube and Tisza rivers, regarded by many Hungarians as the greatest environmental trauma in the region for over a decade.

Monday's editorial in Magyar Nemzet, a national daily close to the centre-right government, argued that it was too early to evaluate the effects of the 10-day old drama, "but no amount of aid could fully repair the environmental damage caused by the severe negligence of the Australian-Romanian joint enterprise".

"Hungary cannot renounce its demand for the fullest compensation possible and the use of EU's financial or infrastructural aid," it said unequivocally.

Diplomacy and cyanide

Examining the diplomatic fallout from the incident, it added: "The delayed talks of the Hungarian minister of environmental protection, Pal Pepo, in Romania are not yet promising, as the Romanian officials seem to try to shift responsibility to the aforementioned joint enterprise, and the setting up of a mixed committee usually leads to dragging the issue ...

River Tisza fisherman The RiverTisza in hungary was devastated
"As an EU candidate that also has deficiencies in this area, Hungary cannot allow itself to get into an even more disadvantageous situation because of other countries' negligence.

"Therefore, the Hungarian diplomacy must focus on preventing such a development in the future," Magyar Nemzet warned.

The left-wing daily Nepszava said the bulk of the leaked cyanide had now passed through Hungarian territory and was heading south.

Magyar Hirlap, a centre-left daily supporting the opposition Alliance of Free Democrats, proclaimed that following the industrial accident that caused the cyanide spill, "Romanian state responsibility should now be raised."

Romania: problem exaggerated

Mr Pepo on Monday visited the scene of the accident in Baia Mare, western Romania, for talks with his Romanian counterparts. But a senior Romanian official earlier on Monday downplayed the crisis, according to Romanian state radio.

Aurul goldmine The original accident happened at the Aurul goldmine on 30 January
Anton Vlad, secretary of state at the Romanian Environmental Protection Ministry, told Bucharest Radio that the cyanide pollution was serious but, at the same time, "a much exaggerated problem".

He said that at the moment the extent of the damage was not known and that the experts must be left to do their jobs without coming under "emotional" pressure.

Mr Vlad said that Romania would cooperate in examining where the blame for the incident lay, while Foreign Minister Petre Roman said on Monday he was "ready to provide explanations to the EU on this serious ecological accident".

Anger in Bulgarian media

Bulgaria's mass circulation 24 Chasa newspaper launched a stinging attack on Romania's apparently cool attitude, in its editorial on Monday.

Water pump in Vinca The Yugoslav village of Vinca lost its main water supply to prevent poisoning people
"Nato's war against Yugoslavia did not prompt a second Chernobyl. However, the Romanian indifference for the fate of European nature is about to achieve this," it said.

"The damage to the Danubian states and the threat to the Black Sea caused by the cyanide split at a Romanian mine in the Danube are immense. However, this would have not happened had Europe not closed its eyes to the Romanian outrages to the region's nature until now ...

"How many more fish must die in the Danube and how many Black Sea species and seaweed must disappear to make the EU understand that Romania understands only the argument of the big stick?" the paper asked.

'Devastating consequences' for Serbia

The Yugoslav state news agency Tanjug reported anger from Serbian officials at the scale of the pollution, which has destroyed all aquatic life in the River Tisza, which flows from Hungary into Serbia.

Serbian Environment Minister Branislav Blazic toured the endangered areas of northern Serbia on Sunday, and said the Tisza was "a dead river for many years to come" and that "charges should be filed against Romania before an international court because of this major ecological disaster".

The cyanide pollution of the Tisza entering Yugoslavia from Hungary is dropping by the hour, Tanjug said, but it has left "devastating consequences" on this river.

"More than 2,000kg of dead fish have been removed from the river so far. Cyanide concentration in the Tisa on entering Yugoslavia was 200 times higher than permitted levels, so that unforeseeable ecological consequences are imminent," Tanjug reported.

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See also:
14 Feb 00 |  Europe
Mine owners contest pollution claims
13 Feb 00 |  Europe
Cyanide spill reaches Danube
11 Feb 00 |  Media reports
Hungary's shock at cyanide disaster
10 Feb 00 |  Europe
Cyanide spill wreaks havoc

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