Germans delighted that their protests paid off

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in Bonn and


in London

The climbdown by Shell over the Brent Spar produced anger and embarrassment for the Conservatives in Britain, but virtually unanimous welcome from politicians of all persuasions in Germany, where the protest movement has been strongest.

Public opinion and the main parties in Germany have been united in opposition to the dumping plan. Pickets protested outside Shell garages, and in one incident a firebomb was thrown at petrol station.

The German environment minister, Angela Merkel, said: "The protests paid off." Shell Germany, too, welcomed the decision, saying that it had "suffered unjustly". The national boycott in Germany played a key role in forcing the change of heart.

The main German television evening news announced yesterday's dramatic volte-face by saying: "So there is some good news, after all." The media and politicians have joined forces in an almost unanimous coalition, and the news presenter summed up the German view of the UK: "Environmental feelings aren't exactly strong, on the mainland."

Greenpeace Germany, which played a key role in helping the protests to get under way, talked of "a great victory for the environment".

In Britain, opposition politicians welcomed the change. But Frank Dobson, Labour's environment spokesman, said: "It's good news for jobs and it's good news for the environment. I'm glad that Shell has seen the light and done the sensible thing. But it does expose a government that is out of touch."

Matthew Taylor, the Liberal Democrat spokesman, hailed a "triumph for the environment movement and the general public and a total humiliation for the Prime Minister". But he added: "Although it may appear matters have resolved, Government policy apparently hasn't changed ... and there are potentially 50 other installations that could go under the North Sea."