Sudan crusade

Religious and human rights leaders are claiming success in their campaign against oil companies active in Sudan.

Religious and human rights leaders are claiming success in their campaign against oil companies active in Sudan.

Talisman Energy Inc. of Calgary and the state oil companies of China, Malaysia, and Sudan are operating a $2.3 billion oil project in southern Sudan.

Sudan has been accused of promoting international terrorism and domestic genocide. Opponents say oil revenues are making those programs possible (OGJ, Nov. 8, 1999, p. 34).

The Clinton administration and UN officials claim the Sudanese government has emptied villages around the Heglig oil field to prevent sabotage.

The US and Canadian governments have been applying pressure on Talisman. Now US states are getting involved.

New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi recently said the city's pension fund would use its 160,000 Talisman shares to persuade the company to leave Sudan.

In New Jersey, members of Congress and church leaders were urging Gov. Christine Todd Whitman to sell the state's 680,000 shares.

The Texas Teachers Retirement Fund has sold 100,000 Talisman shares, and the California Public Employees' Retirement System 203,500 shares.

Talisman stock recently was trading around $28/share, down $5 from its high in the last year.

Canadian probe

The Canadian government was mulling its next step.

Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy recently sent a delegation to Sudan to determine if oil production is linked to alleged human rights abuses.

The team said it found evidence of wide-spread rights violations, but nothing linking Talisman to them.

John Harker, the team leader, said Talisman needs to do more to prove it is a responsible corporation, such as challenging the military's use of a civilian airstrip in the Heglig fields.

Axworthy has threatened to impose sanctions on Talisman unless it helps end the civil war. Harker would not say if his team recommended sanctions.

Chinese angle

Meanwhile, religious and human rights groups have urged the Clinton administration to block Chinese National Petroleum Corp. from being listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

CNPC planned to raise $5 billion in a stock offering this month. It said the funds would go to a separate company, PetroChina Co., operating only in China. CNPC could continue to operate internationally.

In December, more than 180 religious leaders wrote President Bill Clinton urging him to stop the Chinese stock listing because of CNPC's work in Sudan. They urged Clinton to include CNPC in his 1997 executive order prohibiting US companies from investing in Sudan.

The religious groups, which include the powerful Southern Baptist Convention, also have been lobbying the administration through the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, recently established by Congress.

Opponents also contacted the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the NYSE. SEC replied that it does not regulate companies' foreign activities, and NYSE said it is not a government agency and could not advance US policy through the stock-listing process.

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