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Dutch Said To OK Gas Drilling

November 5, 1999

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ Prime Minister Wim Kok has reportedly given his backing to drilling plans which would allow the commercial exploitation of large gas reserves off the Dutch coast.

A joint venture between Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Royal Dutch/Shell and Exxon Corp. of the United States hopes to tap extensive gas fields under the Waddenzee, a sea off the northern tip of the Netherlands.

Kok plans to allow drilling in areas already discovered by the companies, but not in untested regions of the sea, the daily De Volkskrant said.

A spokesman for the venture called NAM was unaware of a new proposal from the government and said he ``hadn’t heard anything from The Hague.″ He explained that the NAM and the government have been in talks for years about gas drilling in the wildlife region.

The Waddenzee is a large marshland reserve where much of the country’s rare bird species can be observed. Environmentalist groups, such as Greenpeace, run large campaigns against the drilling plans.

Early testing in the Waddenzee has revealed reserves which could yield natural gas worth billions of dollars.

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