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Australian government pledges to protect Great Barrier Reef

Published on Feb 1, 2013 1:05 PM

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - The Australian government pledged to stop coal port or shipping developments that would cause damage to the Great Barrier Reef as it responded to a Friday deadline amid the United Nations' warnings that the reef's conservation status could be downgraded.

UNESCO warned last June that the World Heritage Site could be listed as "in danger" if there was no evidence of progress by Feb 1 on protecting the reef from threats that also include climate change and the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish, which is wearing away the world's largest living structure.

"The Great Barrier Reef is an iconic Australian environmental asset, the government is absolutely committed to the protection of the reef and our oceans," said Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke as he released the country's report to UNESCO.

"We will not cut corners or give an inch on protecting it."

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