Treaty violated

"Brazil's environmental legislation and the Basel Convention have been clearly violated," Franco said, referring to a treaty which controls the shipment of toxic waste by industrialised nations.

"It is disgraceful that this cargo was shipped from England, and we are adamant that it be returned."

The United Kingdom "is taking immediate steps on this case,'' the British embassy in said in a statement posted on its web site.

"Where any company is found to have contravened the strict controls on the export of waste as set out by the Basel Convention, which is fully ratified by the UK, the UK authorities will not hesitate to take action," the statement said.

Janete Porto, an IBAMA press offier, said she did not know where the waste came from in Britain, but local media reports said at least some of the waste had been sent from Felixstowe port in southeastern England.

Porto said the Brazilian importing and shipping companies involved in the case are being fined.