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Bosphorus blocked by protest against oil tanker traffic

Maritime traffic in the Bosphorus Strait halted for an hour Sunday as some 1,000 boats carrying Turkish environmental activists clogged the narrow waterway in a demonstration against the passage of oil tankers, Anatolia news agency reported.

The protesters brandished banners reading "Let's join hands to protect the Bosphorus" and "I love Istanbul" as the boats sounded their sirens. Three gliders accompanied the marine procession from the air.

The Bosphorus, one of the busiest waterways in the world and the natural frontier between Europe and Asia, passes through Istanbul, a city of some 10 million people.

Its shores are dotted with residential districts and historic sites that are under constant threat of accidents involving vessels carrying dangerous cargo such as oil and gas.

Hasan Akgun, the mayor of an Istanbul district, said that demonstrations should continue until "it is understood that the Bosphorus is not an oil pipeline," Anatolia reported.

Increasing traffic through the Boshporus and the nearby Dardanelles Strait, particularly of tankers carrying dangerous cargo, has forced Turkey to step up safety measures and impose restrictions, much to the anger of Russia, a major oil and gas exporter.

The two straits form the only connection for Black Sea countries to the Mediterranean and beyond.

In 1979 and again in 1994, tanker crashes in the Bosphorus Strait claimed 41 and 28 lives respectively.

Turkey has used the environmental card to push for the construction of a major oil pipeline from Azerbaijan to its Mediterranean coast, which will carry oil directly from the Caspian Sea to Western markets and break Russia's longtime grip on the region's vast energy resources.

The U.S.-backed pipeline, which runs from Baku to the Turkish terminal of Ceyhan via Georgia, was inauguarated last month and the first oil tanker will be filled with crude at Ceyhan later this year.

Beirut,06 13 2005
Redaction
The Daily Star
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