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Experts from 50 countries met in Luxembourg last week to work on a treaty aimed at controlling the international movement of hazardous waste. But the session hit serious snags. Representatives from some developing countries, especially in Africa, are pushing for the strongest restrictions possible, if not an outright ban. Officials of the United Nations Environment Programme, who organized the meeting, have long said they would seek to control - rather than ban - such shipments.

``Ideally, waste ought to be disposed of safely near the place of its generation,'' says UNEP's executive director, Dr. Mostafa Tolba. ``But international movement of waste, when its purpose is to better protect human health and the environment cannot, and perhaps should not, be abolished.''

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Finding a way to balance these interests could prove difficult.

Issues that caused problems at last week's meeting include how countries will get compensated if they are the victims of illegal dumping and the rights of coastal nations to keep waste-carrying ships from crossing their territorial waters.

UN officials hope to have a document ready for signing by March. But some now wonder whether this deadline may need to be pushed back.

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