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Cypriot ministers assure no danger from Lebanon oil spill
2006-07-31 11:54:55

Nicosia, Jul 31 (CNA) -- Cyprus is not in danger at the moment from a 20 thousand ton oil spill in the Lebanon waters, Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment Fotis Fotiou and Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Antonis Michaelides said here Monday.

Fotiou described the situation as serious, adding however that it must be handled directly and if this is not done then the Eastern Mediterranean could be under threat.

Speaking in Larnaca, Fotiou said that ''south-west winds are pushing the oil slick towards Syria and Turkey'' and that Cyprus has agreed with Brussels and asked various countries which have relevant expertise and equipment to coordinate action to handle the situation.

He said it is dangerous at the moment to send expert staff with the right equipment to Lebanon, noting that he discussed the issue with Minister of Foreign Affairs George Lillikas who is departing for Brussels today for an urgent EU meeting on the Lebanon crisis.

Fotiou said ''a political decision is necessary to secure the safety of the EU and Cypriot experts who will go to the scene and evaluate the situation.''

Cyprus, he added, has an action plan to handle such situations, noting that the equipment the island has can handle small and medium sized disasters.

The Minister said 20 thousand tones of oil spilled into the Lebanon waters and as a result the Eastern Mediterranean ''is threatened with destruction.''

Asked what will happen if the oil slick reaches Cyprus, Fotiou replied that ''there is no reason to panic with the way things are at present.''

''Cyprus is not at risk at this moment,'' he said, adding that surely such disasters have ''negative repercussions on the ecological system and thus tourism.''

He added that ''we are a tourist destination, we are at a sensitive period as far as tourism is concerned and it would be undesirable to have such a development, which I hope we will not have.''

''I hope that after coordination with the EU there will be an action plan from other EU partners too so we can handle the situation more effectively,'' he concluded.

Michaelides said Cyprus is not at risk at the moment since the oil slick is at a great distance from the Cypriot shores.

Furthermore, the Meteorological Service has assured that weather conditions are such that it is virtually impossible for the oil slick to move towards Cyprus.

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