UN says Somali minister approved toxic dumping

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NAIROBI (AP) - The top UN environmental official yesterday linked Somalia's self-proclaimed health minister, Nur Elmy Osman, to an alleged plan by Italian and Swiss businesses to dump toxic wastes in the starving nation.

As hazardous wastes from abroad threatened to arrive on Somalia's shores, the scarce drinking water of the country's north was under threat from a chemical spill at a pesticide warehouse, said the the director of the UN Environment Programme, Mostafa Tolba. He said 21,112 gallons of toxic chemicals had spilled in Somalia's north and were threatening the region's scarce supplies of drinking water.

Mr Tolba said his agency was holding talks with the Italian and Swiss governments to elicit their co-operation in preventing the hazardous waste disposals. The UN environmental chief, who has accused the companies of trying to take advantage of Somalia's anarchy, declined to identify them.