-  Thursday 01 October 2020

    France retires naval embarrassment

    PARIS - When it first took to the seas nearly 50 years ago, the Clemenceau was the crown jewel of French naval prowess. Today, the decommissioned aircraft carrier is an albatross for France amid an uproar over the toxic waste the ship carries.

    President Jacques Chirac quelled a furor over the warship Wednesday by ordering it home from waters off India, where the vessel was to be dismantled.

    The saga underlined the trouble many countries face in getting rid of retired vessels and showed the ability of environmentalists to shame France into recalling the ship over questions about human health risks.

    French officials have said there are at least 45 tons of asbestos on the ship and environmentalists have put the amount at up to 1,000 tons.

    Chirac called the ship home after the country's top administrative court suspended the transfer, and he ordered further tests once it returns to France to determine exactly how much asbestos is aboard.

    Chirac's decision was praised by environmentalists, who had assailed the decision to dispatch the ship to a developing country.

    The Clemenceau — now known as the Q 790 — first set sail in 1957. Taken out of service in 1997, it is now in the Arabian Sea.

    Egypt kept the ship from crossing the Suez Canal for more than a week last month before officials there ruled it would not harm the environment.


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