FRENCH FIRM SAYS IT'S NOT LIABLE

FRENCH FIRM SAYS IT'S NOT LIABLE

French state-controlled oil company Societe Nationale Elf Aquitaine, whose U.S. subsidiary owns the oil leaking from the blazing Mega Borg supertanker, cannot be held liable for spillage, a company source said Tuesday.

''As a simple charterer, we cannot see how we could be liable," said a company official who asked not to be named. "As far as the accident and all the damages are concerned, the shipper must be held responsible."The tanker, owned by Norway's Mosvolds Rederi AS, burst into flames in the Gulf of Mexico Saturday while off-loading some of the cargo owned by Elf's U.S. subsidiary, Elf Trading Inc., to smaller vessels.

Elf Trading said in a statement released in Houston the tanker was carrying 885,000 barrels of light crude oil and was heading for a refinery in the southern United States at the time of the accident.