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EU lawmakers push for help to Ivory Coast victims

Written by: Staff

STRASBOURG, France, Oct 26 (Reuters) European Union lawmakers today urged EU countries to assist and ensure compensation for victims of an alleged discharge of toxic waste by a Dutch-chartered ship in Ivory Coast.

Ten people died after poisonous chemical slops which Ivory Coast said were unloaded from the Panamanian-registered Probo Koala and dumped at 17 mostly open-air sites in Abidjan Port in August, making thousands ill.

EU lawmakers approved a resolution on Thursday calling on the European Commission, the Netherlands and Ivory Coast to investigate the incident and ''to ensure full remediation of the environmental contamination, as well as compensation for the victims''.

The lawmakers also pressed the 25-nation EU to ''take all necessary measures to provide full assistance to the population affected and in particular to children, by using all available means of support, cooperation and civil protection''.

A lawyer representing the victims on Monday demanded 10 million euros (.55 million) in damages from the Dutch-based oil trading company Trafigura which had chartered the tanker as an advance on potential future damages within the next two weeks or face court action.

The Commission said this week it would propose by the end of 2006 legislation providing for criminal sanctions against companies flouting environmental rules.

Current EU rules forbid ships that contain hazardous waste from transferring that material outside OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.

EU member states have previously rejected Commission attempts to make criminal sanctions law for different offences, but an EU court has ruled that the Commission had the right to do so in some cases.

The European Parliament resolution asked the Commission to propose rules that ''close the loopholes in the current regime on hazardous waste'' to end dangerous shipments.

Trafigura has said it had not breached proper procedure in Africa.

''The company would like to correct the persistent misconception that it used the Probo Koala to take an 'illegal cargo' of poisonous 'toxic waste' from Europe to be 'dumped' in West Africa,'' it said in a statement.

''The company has been accused of causing ten deaths and mass illness in the Ivory Coast as a result. Trafigura refutes this and encourages all investigating authorities to make public their findings as soon as possible.'' REUTERS DKB KP2018

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