Clean-up operation continues off GaliciaSpanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar yesterday defended his government's handling of an oil tanker disaster, saying the environmental crisis was being tackled as well as possible considering the adverse weather. A 26-year-old, single-hulled tanker was holed in a violent storm off Spain's northwestern coast, leaving a trail of fuel while it was towed out to sea before it snapped in two and sank in deep Atlantic waters more than a week ago. Oil from the Prestige has washed up on scores of northern Spanish beaches, polluting the area and putting many fishermen and shellfish gatherers temporarily out of work. Opposition politicians accused Aznar on Wednesday of playing down the environmental crisis and trying to shift the blame. People can create all of the alarms that they want...but we are continuing to work as fast as the weather permits, Aznar said at a press conference in Rome, where he participated in the annual Italo-Spanish summit. He also announced that his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi, had rallied behind a proposal to ban potentially unsafe tankers from their coastal waters. After the disaster that has hit Spain, Italy immediately embraced the (proposal), Berlusconi said. In a lively parliamentary debate about the sinking of the Prestige on Wednesday, opponents accusing Aznar's government of taking wrong decisions and of lacking resources and coordination. We all lament what has happened, but we are doing everything we can...and it is not our fault that it split in two, Aznar said, adding that 800 people were on the site, battling two metre-high waves to mop up the spill. He also said that attacks seemed out of place considering parliament had approved all of the measures. Portugal will join France and Spain in banning old, single-hulled oil tankers from its waters to avoid another oil spill devastating the Iberian coastline, Prime Minister Joao Manuel Durao Barroso said on Thursday. Speaking after a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, Barroso said Portugal would back France and Spain in pushing for higher safety standards for oil tankers at European Union level at next month's EU summit in Copenhagen.
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