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Spain summons UK ambassador over Gibraltar oil spill

Tuesday, February 12th 2008 - 20:00 UTC
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Spain summoned British ambassador to Madrid Denise Holt to protest an oil spill off Gibraltar that has polluted Spanish beaches, Environment Minister Cristina Narbona said Monday in the southern city of Seville.

Spanish regional politicians have repeatedly accused Gibraltar of not taking appropriate action to remove the wreck of the Panama-flagged MS New Flame, a freighter with a cargo of scrap metal, which sank partly off Gibraltar after colliding with an oil tanker last mid August. On Saturday, the ship sank further in stormy weather. Spanish reports said fuel leaking from the wreck had polluted several kilometers of coast, while Gibraltar described the spill as "small". The Spanish government recalled that is "has written to the British embassy several times asking that the United Kingdom assume its responsibilities" over the New Flame. Narbona said Spain was seeking a monitoring and control mechanism, operated by Spain, Britain and Gibraltar, to prevent such accidents. The Gibraltar government stated that stormy weather at the weekend caused the ship to sink further, and all that now remains visible above the surface is the vessel's navigation bridge, aft mast and the upper part of her funnel. "As this was not unexpected, Titan, the firm contracted for the wreck removal operation had already put in place precautionary measures before the onset of the stormy weather" a Gibraltar government statement said. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos meanwhile said Gibraltar Chief Minister Peter Caruana had promised to "do whatever is necessary to avoid a deterioration" in the situation. Spanish cleaners Monday removed oil sludge from about half a kilometer of coast in the Algeciras area. Andalusia premier Manuel Chaves said the regional authorities would report Gibraltar to the European Union, and take legal action against the owner and insurance company of the New Flame. "The problem should have been solved much faster", Chaves complained.

Categories: Politics, International.

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