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France says contaminated ship still bound for India

PARIS, Jan. 7 (AFP) An asbestos-laden French warship en route for an Indian scrapyard will continue its journey pending a final Indian court ruling on allowing it into the country, France's defence ministry said Friday.

An environmental panel at India's Supreme Court on Friday accused France of violating the international Basel Convention on the transport of hazardous waste by sending the Clemenceau aircraft carrier to India for decontamination.

But the panel asked for two more weeks to reach a final decision on whether to let the warship proceed to the Alang shipyard, in northwest India.

In the meantime, "the Clemenceau is continuing its journey in international waters," said French defence ministry spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau.

The voyage, which began last weekend, could take up to two months.

Greenpeace and three other groups have tried for months to block the transfer on grounds that Indian shipyard workers are not properly protected from the hazards of working with asbestos, which can cause fatal lung diseases.

Greenpeace France and the Ban Asbestos group, which fought a lengthy legal battle to stop the warship from leaving, on Friday called for it to turn back.

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