CAIRO: Canadian ambassador Phillip MacKinnon refuted, in a statement made available to Daily News Egypt, press reports which indicated he had a sent a letter to Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy giving an ultimatum of three weeks to end Damietta’s Agrium plant crisis.
“Over the past few days, a number of striking articles were published including disturbing allegations that I had sent a letter in the past few days to Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy, in which I gave the Egyptian government three weeks to end the Agrium factory crisis in Damietta, referred to the International Center for Investment Disputes, as well as possible Agrium actions. In addition, the articles alleged that I stated that commissions had been paid in order to finalize permits for the project, MacKinnon said.
“Based on my concern to clarify facts, and to maintain the very good bilateral relations between our two countries, I confirm that I never wrote such a letter. In fact, I haven’t written to Minister Fahmy for some considerable time. I also confirm that there is no truth to the allegations, especially the allegation relating to paying commissions to facilitate the project, MacKinnon said in the statement.
Agrium is a Canadian company and it holds 60 percent of the petrochemical plant Damietta residents are opposed to building in their governorate, citing health risks. The rest is owned by Egyptian and Saudi government entities.
Fahmy also denied that MacKinnon had broached him on this topic, telling the People’s Assembly that “the Canadian ambassador never interfered in this issue and never threatened me. And I do not take threats, the local press reported.
“I wish also to clarify that all the negotiations, procedures, and approvals pertaining to the project have been conducted according to local and international laws and regulations. I stress as well that ‘paying commissions in order to facilitate approvals’ is against the Canadian law, the ambassador wrote.
“Although the Minster of Petroleum and I had previously denied these allegations, yet much of the media coverage is still publishing them. I do hope that future articles are, at minimum, factually correct, MacKinnon said.
The People’s Assembly decided Sunday to send a fact-finding commission to Damietta to ascertain whether it is safe to build the plant 6 km from residential areas.
Locals do not want the plant built in Damietta, citing environmental concerns as well as the effect on tourism in the resort area of Ras El Bar.
Essam Sultan, a lawyer affiliated with Al-Wasat party said in a letter published by Al-Masry Al-Youm Saturday that Egypt was not contractually obligated to pay any fines if the location of the plant is changed.