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Row over ArcelorMittal's Olympics showpiece

Last Updated: Friday, August 3, 2012 - 20:06

London: The ArcelorMittal Orbit tower, the tallest structure in Britain and located next to the Olympics stadium here has been claimed by survivors of the Bosnian concentration camp at Omarska, with the steel giant rejecting their bid.

The company, which is one of the sponsors of the forthcoming London Olympics, has contributed 20 million pounds towards the structure designed by the prize winning artist Anish Kapoor.

Survivors of Bosnian war crimes said yesterday that since ArcelorMittal did not deliver on its 2005 commitment to finance and build a memorial at Omarska, they had decided to claim the Orbit as the 'Omarska Memorial in Exile'.

In 2004, ArcelorMittal had assumed 51 percent ownership of the Ljubija mining complex that included Omarska -now a mine operated by ArecelorMittal.

The survivors allege that the Orbit is "tragically intertwined with the history of war crimes in Bosnia, as the bones of victims are mixed in with the iron ore".

In a statement to PTI, ArcelorMittal Friday denied that any material from the mine had been used in the Orbit, and said that "unfortunately it is not possible for ArcelorMittal on its own" to establish a memorial, but the company was ready to build one if an agreement was reached on a suitable memorial by local community groups and stakeholders.

"Under the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina, permission for memorials can only be given by the local authorities. ArcelorMittal cannot provide such permission. While we recognise the concerns of those campaigning for memorials for the victims of war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the targeting of the ArcelorMittal Orbit is not the answer to this very sensitive situation," the statement said ahead of the London olympics beginning on July 27.

The company said it recognised that since it operated the Omarska mine, various stakeholders turned to it for help to resolve challenges, "but such sensitive issues are not for ArcelorMittal to address on its own."

"We do accept that our 51 percent ownership of this mine does bring certain responsibilities and with that in mind we are continuing to actively engage in dialogue with all concerned parties and to facilitate safe access for those wanting to visit the site", the statement added.

PTI

First Published: Friday, August 3, 2012 - 20:06
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