India PM to ask US to extradite ex-CEO in Bhopal case

NEW DELHI, June 29 Tue Jun 29, 2010 7:16am EDT

NEW DELHI, June 29 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday India would try to convince the United States to extradite the former chairman of Union Carbide, wanted in connection with the world's deadliest industrial accident.

An Indian court has listed Warren Anderson as an absconder in a case to determine his responsibility in the Bhopal disaster, a gas leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant that killed thousands of people a quarter of a century ago.

The United States has turned down a previous extradition request for Anderson, who was chairman of Union Carbide when the accident occurred.

But a ministerial panel reviewing the case recommended reviving the extradition request this month as well as examining the liability of Dow Chemical (DOW.N), which bought Union Carbide ten years after the accident. [ID:nSGE65K0B3]

"We will try to ensure that U.S. government takes a more favourable attitude towards extradition. But we have not approached them yet," Singh told reporters.

India's Congress party, which heads the ruling coalition, faces embarrassment in the case as the party was in power when the accident happened. Opposition parties have said its leaders allowed Anderson to "flee" Bhopal on a government airplane.

Bhopal activists have also accused the United States of double standards after the Obama administration extracted billions in compensation from oil giants BP Plc (BP.L) (BP.N) for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

They want similar treatment meted out for the Bhopal disaster and have called for more compensation for the victims and a cleanup for the plant site. [ID:nSGE65G08B]

Singh's government set up the ministerial panel after public outrage over a perceived lenient verdict against former Union Carbide officials this month in the first convictions handed out by India's slow-moving justice system.

In a rare admission of failure by the top-ranked government official, Singh acknowledged the shortcomings of the legal system, saying: "That it should have taken 25 years before the case could be decided is something that we have to reflect about and the inadequacies of our judicial system."

The Bhopal accident killed at least 3,500 people according to government estimates. But rights activists say 25,000 died in the immediate aftermath and around 100,000 people suffer ailments such as blindness, cancer and birth defects to this day. (Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and Miral Fahmy)

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