French tug picks up stranded aircraft-carrier
PARIS (AFP) Nov 10, 2003
A French Navy tug took the decommissioned aircraft carrier Clemenceau, stranded off the coast of Sicily for several weeks, in tow during the weekend, the French government said Monday.

A joint statement from the defence and budget ministries said the ship was "heading for the western Mediterrean at a speed of two or three knots" but that the final destination of the Clemenceau "remained to be decided."

The ship is at the centre of a contractual dispute over asbestos and scrap rights.

Decommissioned in 1997 after 35 years of service, the 33,000-tonne vessel was sold to a Spanish company which undertook to tow it for demolition in the port of Gijon in northern Spain, according to the French defence ministry.

However on leaving its Mediterranean base at Toulon on October 13 the carrier was seen heading not towards the straits of Gibraltar -- and thus to Spain's Atlantic coast -- but eastwards towards Turkey.

The French government said there were European conventions on the issue of asbestos removal and a clause in the contract had stipulated that the demolition had to take place in Europe and not in Turkey, where there was reason to believe the European rules were not respected.

It therefore cancelled the contract.