Britain backs Caspian Sea to Mediterranean pipeline

Dec 18, 2003 01:00 AM

The UK government announced financial backing for a controversial £ 2.2 bn pipeline to carry oil from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. Mike O'Brien, the Foreign Office minister, told MPs on the day before the parliamentary recess that he had approved credit cover amounting to nearly £ 100 mm for the British-led consortium, headed by BP, to build the 1,087-mile pipeline.
The scheme -- one of the key projects approved by Tony Blair and George Bush to provide new sources of oil outside the Gulf -- runs across a highly volatile political region from Azerbaijan through Georgia and skirts Kurdish minority settlements in eastern Turkey.

British-based human rights and environmental groups have been fighting the scheme, warning that the pipeline would reignite conflicts and increase global warming. There are also concerns about the dangers of oil spillages in the Turkish port of Ceyhan and concern that it runs through an earthquake zone.
Some 15 groups in 10 countries delivered a dossier to Hilary Benn, the international development secretary, saying the project breached World Bank lending guidelines on 173 separate counts.

But Mr O'Brien told earlier: "This scheme was going to go ahead anyway and we decided that with proper monitoring of the environment and social issues it was better to be 'inside the tent' rather than outside it. BP has a good record on the environment and the international development department thought there was a good development case."
Nick Hildyard, a director of the Corner House, one of the human rights groups fighting the scheme, said: "All the groups are now likely to challenge this in the European court."

Source: The Guardian
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