- Title: VARIOUS: Uruguay approves controversial pulp mill, angering Argentina
- Date: 10th November 2007
- Summary: (W4) FRAY BENTOS, URUGUAY (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS AERIALS OF PAPER MILL
- Reuters ID: LVA2JBJOHS14UYOG99PGZPFJ5XD7
- Duration: 00:00:40
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: International Relations,Industry
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None
- Story Text: Uruguay has granted a long-awaited start-up permit for Finnish pulp mill group Metsa-Botnia's $1 billion mill in Uruguay, which neighbouring Argentina argues will pollute a border river.
The go-ahead came late on Thursday (November 08) after a last-ditch effort to resolve the two-year diplomatic dispute between the South American countries failed during a summit in Chile.
After a last-minute suspension of the opening last week, Uruguay's environment minister Mariano Arana signed permission over to Metsa-Botnia in Thursday.
The lengthy dispute between the two countries has involved unrelenting protests, two trips to The Hague and mediation efforts by the Spanish government and monarchy.
"Unfortunately, there haven't been any significant advances. It seems very reasonable, very correct to thank especially the Spanish government and monarchy for their efforts at reconciliation. (The talks) were not sufficient," Arana said from Montevideo on Thursday.
The decision drew swift criticism from Argentina, but Arana said it will finally end conjecture about pollution caused by the mill.
"I think this is very convenient to put an end to the discussions of whether there will be contamination or not. In reality, that will be determined through objective parameters controlled scientifically. The plant must strictly meet norms, which in the case of Uruguay are very demanding," he said.
Montevideo's move to authorize the plant angered Argentine officials, particularly because it came unexpectedly, just after Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez gave a conciliatory speech at the Ibero-American summit in Chile and hugged Argentina's Nestor Kirchner.
Kirchner's public comments at the summit were civil.
"In the name of the Argentine people, thank you. Despite the lack of understanding of some, we will always believe in dialogue. We will always believe in fraternity. We will never use this against you and I never wanted to put you in a difficult position," he said.
The outgoing Argentine president added he hopes to continue talks.
"I'm taking on the challenge of continuing talks. I think that's the right path. I also want to publicly express my gratitude for the world of the president-elect, that nothing separate our countries. Let's keep on the path of talks and we can get over this unfortunate moment, this important theoretical moment where find ourselves. I believe without a doubt we will find a solution. Because if the government don't find it the people will, because more than neighbours we are brothers," he said.
But according to Argentine official news agency Telam, Kirchner told Vazquez after the speech that 'he'd stabbed the Argentine people in the back'.
Uruguayan media said Tabare Vazquez had decided to order the mill permit after Kirchner greeted environmental protesters on the streets of Chile on Thursday, saying he supported their cause.
In Buenos Aires, the diplomatic sent a letter to Uruguay's ambassador Francisco Bustillo, who then visited the Foreign Ministry to speak with officials.
The content of the letter was not revealed and Bustillo didn't give any clues.
"I was called on the by the Vice Foreign Minister Garcia Moritan and that's why I came. (Journalist asking what the letter said) First I'm to inform the government," he said while leaving the foreign affairs building.
A thin stream of black smoke has periodically appeared from the chimney of the plant, angering residents across the river who have dedicated the last two years to stopping the plant.
Around 4:30pm local time (1330gmt), Uruguayan officials ordered the closure of the border, citing 'threats' and 'the situation'.
Images provided by Argentina's Channel 13 showed authorities parked in the middle of a bridge linking the two countries, standing with their arms folded over a line marking the border.
Argentine environmentalist Alfredo D'Angeli said a meeting with Uruguayan activists may be suspended if the closure continues.
"Recently, the Lieutenant Peniero was given the order that nothing passes. He marked the white line there. Tomorrow we have to go to (Uruguayan town of) Nueva Palmira for a meeting with our Uruguayan partners but, well, we're see what we do," he said from the bridge.
Officials from Botnia have maintained the mill will not pollute the river, saying instead it will bring environmental benefits to the air through water treatment facilities.
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- Embargoed:25th November 2007 12:00