US seeks halt to work on pipeline opposed by Native Americans

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Washington (AFP)

The US government on Friday sought to stop work on a controversial oil pipeline in North Dakota that has angered Native Americans, blocking any work on federal land and asking the company to "voluntarily pause" work nearby.

The move by the government came after a federal judge denied a request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to halt construction on the project amid fears it could endanger its drinking water.

"The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions" on the site, US authorities said in a statement.

"In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe," said the statement from the Army, the Justice Department and the Department of the Interior.

The statement said "important issues" had been raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations about both the Dakota Access pipeline and other pipeline projects in general.

"This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes' views on these types of infrastructure projects," it said, adding it would invite tribal leaders to talks on the issue.