Dubai's Nakheel says World islands not washing away

Wed Jan 26, 2011 8:57am EST

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* Developer denies World islands washing away

* Says in talks to sell remaining 30 pct of project

DUBAI, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Dubai developer Nakheel [NAKHD.UL] on Wednesday rejected reports that its 300 man-made islands shaped like a map of the world are washing away and said it is in talks to sell a remaining 30 percent of the delayed project.

"The World islands are definitely not sinking, washing away or eroding," Nakheel Chief Executive Chris O'Donnell told reporters.

The developer, whose debt troubles forced its parent company Dubai World [DBWLD.UL] to announce a shock debt delay in 2009, took journalists on an organised visit to a few of the islands on the 7 km (4.4 mile) -wide archipelago in the Gulf, but did not allow video cameras or photography.

A tribunal set up for claims related to Dubai World's debt restructuring heard a case this month where Penguin Marine, a company hired by Nakheel to ferry construction goods and people, said the islands were falling back into the sea, media reports said.

Last year, Nakheel described media reports about the sinking of the islands as "wholly inaccurate". [ID:nLDE6111Y8]

Nakheel officials said there would be some minor erosion that may change the shape of the islands but this was not significant. Most developers have halted work on the islands after the Gulf Arab emirate's booming property sector was hit by the global downturn. Nakheel said development of the islands was the concern of the owners.

"We delivered our commitment based on the contract and it is now up to the developer," said Nakheel Chairman Ali Rashid Lootah.

He said the company had sold 70 percent of the islands and was in talks to sell the remaining. (Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by David Holmes)

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