'France's image at stake' on toxic ship | india | Hindustan Times
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'France's image at stake' on toxic ship

It will take onus until Clemenceau is dismantled and offers to take asbestos back if need be, country's envoy said.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2006 13:23 IST

French Ambassador Dominique Girard has vehemently defended the deal for dismantling the Clemenceau, saying that nothing less than "the image of France" was at stake.

The French envoy will be personally inspecting the Alang ship-breaking yard in Gujarat on Wednesday and report to the French Government on the facts of the case in a last ditch effort to save the French offer to India to break the decommissioned warship allegedly carrying hazardous wastes.

"I want to have a direct look at the ship-breaking yard. I want to send a report to my Government that it is what we know what it is," Girard said.

"We take it very seriously. Our image is at stake," he said.

Alluding to growing relations between India and France, Girard stressed that Paris could not jeopardise its close relationship with New Delhi by misrepresenting the facts of the case, especially ahead of the visit of French President Jacques Chirac to India later this month.

"We are entering a new stage in our relations. Why should we put all this at risk?" he asked even as he called the French offer "the best India's ship-breaking industry can have".

Leading environmentalists have joined hands with human rights activists and trade unions in India to oppose the entry of the ship that allegedly contains more than 500 tonnes of hazardous asbestos and exposes the life of workers to risk.

As per the agreement, the French government stands to lose a hefty bank guarantee if the ship has 500 tonnes of asbestos.

According to the latest report by Greenpeace, the international environmental group that is spearheading a campaign to prevent the entry of Clemenceau in the Indian waters, the ship contains 760 tonnes of asbestos, of which only a small fraction has been decontaminated.

Reacting to these charges, the French envoy said, "We are covered with insults by Greenpeace. They insult us without knowing what we want or rather ignoring what we are committed to."

"I have spoken before the Supreme Court committee. I have told them that we will take the responsibility and ownership of the ship until it is demolished. We will take the residual asbestos back to France if the need be," Girard said.