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Sharaf Shuts Down Damietta's MOPCO Plant

Source: Ahram Online 11/13/2011, Location: Egypt

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Egypt’s prime minister, Essam Sharaf, has issued a decision to shut down operations in the disputed MOBCO factory in Damietta, according to Damietta Governor Mohamed Ali Felefel.

Large-scale clashes between protesters and police have left two people dead and three injured in Damietta governorate Sunday People angry at the government’s failure to relocate the controversial Mobco factory out of Damietta port were confronted by police in the latest wave of violence to hit Egypt. Clashes erupted at dawn in the delta city. Protesters said their complaints that the Canadian-Egyptian fertilisers factory is polluting the city fell on deaf ears, with the government reluctant to take any measures to meet their concerns.

State news agency MENA earlier reported that Sunday’s clashes left one dead and three wounded after demonstrators blocked the Damietta port and almost all roads in the city. “The police and army killed Islam Abdallah, I have just seen his body after he was killed,” eye witness Ahmed Omar told Ahram Online. “The police and army attacked fiercely without making any attempts to negotiate with the protesters," added Omar. "Around 20,000 people are in the streets now protesting against what is happening.

“The city is at a standstill, the roads are entirely blocked. We want our voice to be heard, we want the Egyptian media to focus on our issue and complaints.” The army briefly managed to open the roads but protesters swiftly regained the upper hand to block them again. Eyewitnesses said the demonstrations called for further support from Damietta residents through loudspeakers.

The Damietta saga started last week during the Islamic El-Adha feast when hundreds of people staged a sit-in for three days, shutting down the city’s harbor in the process. Ibrahim Felfel, head of the harbours authority in Damietta, said on Saturday the sit-in had lost the country millions of pounds. “Around 35 ships were not able to reach the harbour. The harbour’s reputation will also be affected because of that,” he said.

Protesters say the pollution produced by the factory affects animal, plant and fish supplies in the city.

Medhat Youssef, the chairman of Mobco, leapt to the defense of the factory. “We are ready for any inspection. We are ready to receive an inspection committee from the World Health Organization to make sure it would not cause environmental problems,” he told MENA. “Mobco is even ready to cover the expense of bringing that committee. We will accept its results. “We care about the environment and the health of the city’s residents. The report of the Ministry of Environment ensured that the factory is safe.”

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