US, UK urged to lift secret of WWII munition dumps

STRASBOURG, France, May 30 (Reuters) - Britain and the United States should reveal the location of chemical munitions seized from Nazi Germany at the end of World War Two and dumped in the Baltic Sea, the Council of Europe said on Friday.

The human rights watchdog said the exact location of the dumps, a military secret, should be made public to ensure that environmental risks connected with a planned underwater gas pipeline between Russia and Germany can be properly assessed.

A report presented to the Council of Europe assembly says the Allies seized 300,000 tonnes of chemical munitions from Germany at the end of the war and dumped them in the Baltic Sea, in some cases in waters only a few dozen metres deep.

The report says the military secret was supposed to be lifted after 50 years but Britain and the United States, which had taken possession of most of the stocks, decided in 1997 to keep details secret for a further 20 years.

The Russia-Germany gas pipeline, which will run along the Baltic seabed, will be built by the Nord Stream consortium in which Russia's Gazprom GAZP.MM holds a majority stake. Work is expected to begin in 2009.

The Council of Europe seeks to promote democratic principles throughout the continent, based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other statutes on the protection of individuals. (Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac, writing by Estelle Shirbon, editing by Mary Gabriel)