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Ecuador allows drilling in Yasuni National Park

Lawmakers in Ecuador have approved drilling in the Yasuni National Park after failing to secure international compensation to leave it untouched. The motion has allowed for oil extraction in 0.1 percent of the park.

After a 10-hour debate on Thursday, Ecuador's National Assembly approved the motion, backed by President Rafael Correa, to allow extraction of oil from Yasuni National Park. The assembly, which passed the motion by a 108 to 25 margin, said the operation would be carried out by a state oil company.

In August, President Correa said he was abandoning a plan to persuade developed countries to pay Ecuador not to drill in the nature reserve, saying wealthy nations had not pledged enough money.

When the plan was announced in 2007, it was hailed by environmentalists who said Correa was setting a precedent in the fight against global warming by empowering less developed nations to protect their wildlife. However, pledges only reached $13.3 million (9.7 million euros) just .37 percent of the target.

The deposits in the reserve are expected to yield profits of about $18.3 billion, with extraction to start in five years. The motion will allow for drilling in 0.1 percent of the park's surface.

The Yasuni park in the east of the country has been declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve for its exceptional biodiversity. It is also home to several indigenous tribes.

As one of the resolutions in the motion, activity in the area should cease immediately if oil workers see any members of the region's uncontacted tribes.

Two of the tribes in the park, the Tagaeri and Taromenane, have had no known contact with industrialized society. They have asked, through other tribes, to be left in isolation.

Environmentalists, activists and indigenous rights' groups have protested against the drilling and have called for a referendum.

hc/jm (Reuters, AP, dpa)