Romania denies wrongdoing caused cyanide spill

BRUSSELS, Feb 16, 2000 -- (Reuters) Romania on Tuesday denied negligence or wrongdoing was to blame for a cyanide spill that poisoned river water in three countries, and insisted it had responded quickly to the disaster.

Foreign Minister Petre Roman, in Brussels to open his country's talks on European Union membership, told Reuters the spill had not become an extra hurdle on the way to membership.

"It isn't. Everybody understands that it is not an accident caused by negligence, caused by wrongdoings. It's really a very exceptional event...Really I do not think that Romania is to be blamed for that," he said.

The spill from the Romanian gold plant has poisoned the meandering Tisza River, a beloved part of the Hungarian landscape, and after two weeks has now spread to Yugoslavia, where the Tisza joins the Danube. It has killed thousands of fish.

Roman told a news conference after opening the EU talks on behalf of his country, that the weather had been solely to blame for the accident. While damage to the Tisza had been large, the damage to the Danube was not.

He said the technology at the gold mine, dating back to 1998 and partly financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, was not faulty.

"It's out of the question that this technology was in itself risky," he said.

"I wish also to say that the damage to the Tisza was considerable, but the damage to the Danube is not very much."

"We took the necessary measures. We knew from the very beginning what happened. We intervened in time, and we communicated," he said.

Romania and Hungary on Monday began discussing compensation for the spill.

Roman welcomed an announcement by the European Commission on Monday that it might allocate some economic aid earmarked for Eastern Europe towards helping clear up the spill.

Original article