- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2007

GENEVA — China — and its business interests in Sudan — could be embarrassed internationally if the United Nations acts on the recommendation that a list of companies doing business in the African country be drawn up and published.

“The real target here is Chinese companies in Sudan,” said a top human rights diplomat, who requested anonymity.

“This would certainly bring a specific focus to the debate on corporate social responsibility. … It would be very embarrassing for many countries including some members of the Security Council, especially the Chinese, if it was carried out well,” the diplomat said.

The recommendation to publish a list comes in a report from the high-level mission led by Nobel Laureate Jody Williams that was released Monday and is expected to be presented to the Human Rights Council, which lists 47 countries as members, today. The mission was denied entry into Darfur.

“The international community has not been spot on in protecting the people of Darfur,” said Mrs. Williams in a telephone interview.

The drawing up of a corporate list “would certainly put pressure on all companies doing business with the government of Sudan,” said an ambassador from a Group of Eight country, who asked not to be identified.

The panel also recommended that U.N. agencies “abstain from entering into business transactions with any of the identified companies.”

Such a move is likely to spur calls for divestiture by state-run pension funds and university endowments from companies that appear on such a list. Similar actions in the 1980s played a major role in the demise of South Africa’s apartheid regime.

“Companies operating in Sudan may be complicit in crimes against humanity and liable in a lot of jurisdictions,” said an eminent international jurist.

Sudan, backed by Islamic countries, has contested the accuracy and independence of the mission’s findings.

The request by the panel calls for the list to be drawn up not by the U.N. Security Council but by the General Assembly, which would make it difficult for China to block.

China’s National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has a major stake in Sudan’s oil production and is also active in exploration activity throughout the country, diplomats said.

In February 2006, Sudan’s oil production averaged 536,000 barrels a day, according to estimates by the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

China is the principal export destination for Sudan’s crude exports.

Ahmed El Mardi, Sudan’s minister of justice, told reporters that the report was “null and void” and “unfair,” and did not represent the true situation.

He said most of the oil companies operating in Sudan were mainly from Asia — China, Malaysia and India. Sudanese officials said the French group Total has also been active for more than 50 years, and Britain-based company White Nile also has oil interests.

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