Opposition politicians attacked Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's handling of an oil tanker disaster yesterday, accusing him of playing down the environmental crisis and trying to shift the blame. In a lively parliamentary debate on the sinking of the Prestige, opponents mauled Aznar, accusing his government of taking wrong decisions and of lacking resources and coordination. You deserve a motion of censure, Gaspar Llamazares, a member of the small United Left party, told Aznar. You have denied the reality of the catastrophe until the oil slick reached Moncloa (the prime minister's official residence). The 26-year-old, single-hulled tanker was holed in a violent storm off Spain's northwestern coast, and left a trail of fuel while it was towed out to sea before it snapped in two and sank in deep Atlantic waters eight days ago. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, leader of the main opposition Socialist Party, said misguided government decisions forced the ship to take a Dantesque route, leaking an oil slick for days. He urged the government to accept its responsibilities and conduct an in-depth analysis of its response to the accident. Aznar rejected opposition attempts to blame the government for the disaster and defended Spain's decision not to allow the holed tanker into port. He said his government was doing everything possible to ease the impact of the disaster, by cleaning up the spill and helping the families of fishermen affected. Oil from the Prestige has washed up on scores of northern Spanish beaches, polluting hundreds of birds and putting many fishermen and shellfish gatherers temporarily out of work. A Dutch salvage team wanted to bring the Prestige nearer shore to attempt to transfer its more than 70'000 tonnes of fuel oil to another tanker, but both the Spanish and Portugese governments refused to allow it into port.
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