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FIRM OFFERS TO AID CLEANUP OF OIL SPILL

The oil company TotalFina offered $6 million Thursday to help clean up a massive oil spill off France's western coast that leaked from a tanker the company hired.

Thierry Desmarest, chairman of the Franco-Belgian company, has been soundly criticized in France for failing to contribute to efforts to clean the two-week-old spill.

Desmarest announced the contribution Thursday after a meeting with French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in Paris.

The money will be used primarily for buying equipment needed to collect, store and dispose of the oil. In addition to those funds, TotalFina said it will contribute to efforts to pump the oil from the ocean.

The spill began when the 24-year-old tanker Erika split in two on Dec. 12 and sank into the waves, pouring 3 million gallons of oil into the Atlantic. It was carrying refined heavy oil from Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Leghorn, Italy.

Some of the oil is still floating around at sea, but most of it has begun to wash up on a wide stretch of islands and beaches in western France.

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