Former French warship moves Egypt's Suez Canal

The decommissioned French aircraft carrier Clemenceau entered the Suez Canal on Monday, after a week of delay over allegations it was carrying hazardous toxic waste, a senior official of the Suez Canal Authority said. The ship passed through the Port Said mouth of the Canal before dawn and arrived about midday in the Great Bitter Lake, which lies about two thirds of the way down the Canal, said the official, who insisted on speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the press.

It is expected to reach Suez, the southern exit of the Canal, later Monday. The ship, which is being towed to an Indian scrapyard, was thrust into the spotlight earlier this month when two Greenpeace activists boarded it in the Mediterranean, claiming it contained hundreds of tons of toxic waste, including 500 tons of asbestos, that France intends to dump in India. The activists later left the vessel.

The French government said most of the asbestos was removed before it left France, but the Egyptian parliament debated the ship's transiting the Canal and the Indian Supreme Court barred it from entering Indian territorial waters until experts had determined whether it was carrying hazardous waste.

Representatives of Egypt's Environmental Ministry, the Nuclear Energy Authority and the Suez Canal Authority inspected the Clemenceau and found it could transit the Canal without threat to the environment. The ship's agents, World Marine, said Sunday the Clemenceau was required to pay an additional US$200,000 (Ђ165,700) for its transit charges of US$1.3 million (Ђ1.08 million). It has also had to pay US$140,000 (Ђ116,000) for insurance against any possible damage that might occur during transit, reports the AP. N.U.