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Indian Ministers Seek Extradition of American on Bhopal Disaster

Official death toll in Bhopal disaster is 3,500 people. But activists say over the years the poisonous gas leak has claimed more than 20,000 lives

Indian ministers are urging the government to seek the extradition of the former head of Union Carbide and review Dow Chemical's liability in the 1984 gas leak that killed thousands of people in the central city of Bhopal.

The panel made the recommendations to the Indian government Monday. Their report will next be discussed during a special Cabinet session on Friday.

Anger over the world's worst industrial disaster, which occurred at a plant owned by a Union Carbide subsidiary in Madhya Pradesh state, was revived this month after an Indian court sentenced seven top managers to two years in prison for criminal negligence.

The panel is calling on the Indian government to renew its efforts to pursue the extradition of former Union Carbide Chief Warren Anderson from the United States. An Indian court has classified Anderson as an absconder (one who flees the law).

The ministers also recommended the government pursue liability claims against Dow Chemical, which now owns Union Carbide.

Dow says its legal liabilities ended in 1989 when Union Carbide paid $470 million in compensation to the Indian government.

The ministers are also proposing the Indian government pay victims' families $22,000 each and set aside $65 million for the clean-up of the factory site in Bhopal.

The official death toll in the disaster at the Bhopal pesticide plant is 3,500 people. But activists say that over the years the poisonous gas leak has claimed more than 20,000 lives.

Hundreds of thousands of others were either disabled or left with chronic illnesses, ranging from kidney and liver damage, to cancer and birth defects.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.