Argentina denies any 'war hypothesis' over construction of controversial pulp mill in Fray Bentos, Uruguay, now owned by UPM, as claimed by former Uruguay President Vazquez

LOS ANGELES , October 17, 2011 () – The possibility of a brewing conflict between Uruguay and Argentina over construction of the pulp mill in Fray Bentos, Uruguay, was denied by the Argentina government, reported MercoPress on Oct. 13 and Oct. 14.

The denial came after former Uruguay President Tabare Vazquez made claims of a “war hypothesis” in 2006, as protests escalated over construction of the pulp mill, which was constructed by Oy Metsä-Botnia Ab and later acquired by UPM-Kymmene Corp.

Argentina never “even remotely” considered the prospect of “armed conflict,” said Alberto Fernandez, Argentina’s cabinet chief from 2003 to 2008, MercoPress reported.

Vazquez also said that during this period, he contacted U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to seek support and advice on the situation and asked that she inform President George W. Bush.

Former Argentine Foreign Affairs minister Rafael Bielsa said that Vazquez’s statement shows that he is “a parochial, domestic, suburban person completely ignorant of International Law and international policies.”

On Oct. 13, Tabare apologized for his comments on the Botnia situation, calling them “inopportune,” and said he would resign from public political activities, reported MercoPress.

The diplomatic conflict between Uruguay and Argentina over the Botnia pulp mill continued from 2003 to 2010, when it was settled by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The court ruled that the two countries should hold talks aimed at reaching an accord on the issue. It also found no evidence that the pulp mill would pollute the river.

In a political discussion with a group of students, Vazquez was quoted as saying that there was a “very serious conflict with Argentina,” according to a Montevideo newspaper, MercoPress reported.

During the newspaper interview, he said that he asked for the military to advise him on what to do about the Argentine Army military exercises taking place near the pulp mill.

Tensions intensified during the three and a half years in which environmentalists blocked an international bridge between the two countries. The protestors claimed that the mill would contaminate the Uruguay River, which the two countries share, reported MercoPress.

At the start of the disagreement over the pulp mill, Argentina accused Uruguay of not giving its neighbor notice of the project, despite an agreement in which the two countries are to consult and share decisions on managing the River Uruguay’s waters.

Under an agreement, Uruguay and Argentina both monitor the pulp mill and the waters of the Uruguay River, MercoPress reported.

The primary source of this article is MercoPress, Montevideo, Uruguay, on Oct. 13, 2011 and Oct. 14, 2011.

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