Argentina unveils report showing pollution in Uruguay River, asks Uruguay to reverse recent decision authorizing UPM to increase production at its Fray Bentos pulp mill

SANTIAGO, Chile , October 11, 2013 () – Argentina unveiled a report showing pollution in the Uruguay river and asked Montevideo to step back in its decision to increase the output of a pulp mill located on the banks of the river, raising the diplomatic tension between the two South American neighbors.

Argentina's foreign affairs minister, Héctor Timerman, said Uruguay has blocked plans to measure pollution in the Uruguay river several times in the last three years, and published a report showing high levels of chromium and nickel, and chemicals in the waterway that separates both countries.

The conflict erupted a decade ago after the Uruguayan government authorized the construction of a pulp mill on the banks of the Uruguay River, an action that sparked a legal and diplomatic brawl between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. It was settled in 2010 after The International Court of Justice ruled the pulp mill could operate, but forced countries to check pollution on the river.

However, the dispute reignited last week after Uruguay's President José Mujica authorized Finnish firm UPM to increase its pulp output from 1Mt to 1.1Mt per annum. Argentina said the decision violated the court ruling, but Montevideo dismissed the allegations.

"In the last week we have asked Uruguay through informal channels to go back on its decision to increase production and to negotiate again the environmental issue without arriving at an answer for the moment," Timerman said.

"The Argentina government formally asks Uruguay to go back on its decision and to continue round table discussiones," he added. Meanwhile, residents of Gualeguaychú, an Argentine city on the border with Uruguay, are planning new protests for the weekend.

In the past, Gualeguaychú played a key role in the conflict as thousands of residents blocked on and off many border crossing points with Uruguay from 2005 until 2010.

Argentina is the fourth largest market for Uruguayan exports, with US$500mn in imports in 2012, while Uruguayan imports from its neighbor reached US$1.61bn last year.

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