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Chirac regrets Clemenceau controversy

Chirac has ordered the warship to go back to France after environmentalists protested at plans to break up the asbestos-lined ship in Gujarat.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2006 14:34 IST

French President Jacques Chirac has expressed regret at the controversy over the aircraft carrier Clemenceau.

Chirac has ordered the warship to go back to France after environmentalists protested at plans to break up the asbestos-lined ship in Gujarat.

In an interview with to a magazine, Chirac proposed a meeting with European partners to find ways to dispose of hundreds of ageing warships.

The text was distributed on Friday by the Elysee Palace, two days before Chirac starts an official visit to India.

"I regret that the controversy happened despite the efforts we undertook to ensure the environmental and health soundness of the operation," he said.

Chirac was forced to order the ship home after France's highest administrative court, the State Council, blocked its transfer to an Indian shipbreaking yard over pollution fears.

Greenpeace and anti-asbestos campaigners in France and India welcomed the decision as a major victory but shipbreakers in Gujarat state said the move would devastate their industry.

The affair has deeply embarrassed the French government.

Chirac said the controversy raised the more general question of how to dispose of hundreds of old ships worldwide.

"It is a very serious problem since we cannot and should not export hazardous waste, nor can we keep these ships in wreckyards.

"Therefore, I have decided that we will consult with our European partners in order to consider strengthening European capabilities to remove pollution," he said in the interview.

First Published: Feb 17, 2006 14:34 IST