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. Missing Mexican island fuels mystery
MEXICO CITY, Feb 11 (AFP) Feb 11, 2009
Lawmakers in Mexico are trying to determine the whereabouts of island central to the country's oil claims, which appears literally to have dropped off the map about 10 years ago.

Bermeja island in the Gulf of Mexico -- a strategic marker defining US and Mexican maritime and subsea rights -- has disappeared along with documents backing up a bilateral treaty on major oil reserves in the area, fueling rumors of a CIA plot.

"There are two stories about how it disappeared: one is that global warming raised the sea level and it is under water," said Mexican lawmaker Elias Cardenas, of the Convergence Party.

"The other is that ... it was blown up by the CIA so that the United States would get the upper hand in Hoyos de Dona" -- the oil reserves area.

Low-lying Bermeja, a smallish 80 km2 (31 sq miles), until 30 years ago was the official land point from which Mexico set its 200 nautical-mile economic zone.

The Alacranes islands now are being used as the marker, sharply reducing Mexico's economic zone.

In June 2000, Mexico and the United States signed a treaty putting a 10-year moratorium on their prospecting and pumping activities in the area. It is set to expire in 2011.

But "we do not have information about how this accord was signed," Cardenas said, while Bermeja north of Yucatan and Campeche states, had been mapped as far back as 1669.

Bermeja appears in a 1998 book of Mexican islands by the Interior Ministry, but in 1997 a Navy fishing expedition reported it could not locate the island, Cardenas said.

The foreign ministry did not respond to an AFP request for comment on the case.

Miguel Angel Gonzalez Felix, a foreign ministry legal adviser when the treaty was negotiated, last June told senators the island was some 40 to 50 meters (120 to 150 feet) under water.

Six days later, several Mexican senators said in a statement that "a force of nature (able to sink an island) does not take place without anyone noticing, and much less so when it is sitting in an area with more than 22 billion barrels of oil reserves."

Lawmakers have demanded President Felipe Calderon account for how Bermeja Island disappeared from Mexican territory.

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