Religious Rights, Stock Market Eyed
Religious Rights, Stock Market Eyed
.c The Associated Press
By DAVID BRISCOE
WASHINGTON (AP) - A new government commission seeking to foster religious
freedom opened its first hearing Tuesday at odds with the Treasury Department
over whether to stop abusive governments from raising money on U.S. stock
The hearing focused immediately on the link between a Chinese government
oil company, building a pipeline in Sudan, and that country's radical
government, which is accused of killing 14 children and a teacher in a
bombing raid on a Roman Catholic school last week.
The Sudanese government has said if its plane killed children, it was an
accident of war because rebel fighters were massed near the school.
At the hearing, an exiled Sudanese Catholic bishop said the Feb. 8 bombing
was intentional and accused the government of trying to kill off the
country's Roman Catholic minority. "If you destroy the fruit, you will have
no more trees tomorrow," Bishop Macram Max Gassis said.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which is to take up
abuses of religion in Russia and China later in the year, has appealed to
President Clinton to prohibit the Chinese company and others from using
U.S. capital markets to finance the Sudanese pipeline.
The Treasury Department insists that existing sanctions against Sudan cannot
apply to capital markets. The United States contends Sudan exports terrorism.
Despite Treasury's position, the commission has appointed a task force to
monitor plans by China National Oil Co. to raise money through a listing on
the New York Stock Exchange.
PetroChina is expected to proceed with an initial public offering in excess
of $5 billion in the next several weeks, said Roger Robinson Jr., a former
National Security Council director who is now chairman of the William J.
Casey Institute of the Center for Security Policy.
Chinese investment in the 940-mile pipeline from Heglid in southern Sudan
to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, completed in September, is part of the largest
overseas venture of the China National Oil Co. The Chinese oil company also
helped build a refinery in Sudan.
He said the commission needs to evaluate whether the Chinese offering can
ensure that money raised in U.S. markets are not diverted to the oil
company's project in Sudan.
The school bombing in central Sudan was associated with the government's
17-year civil war with southern rebels, which has led to an estimated 2
million deaths from fighting or war-induced famine.
The rebels seek autonomy for Christian and animist southern Sudanese
from the government dominated by ethnically Arab Muslims.
Commission members have said they plan to meet with experts and market
managers to explore "voluntary adoption of human rights and religious-
freedom criteria" for entry into U.S. stock markets, Robinson said.
He said going after entry into U.S. markets by rights abusers may be more
effective than sanctions, which tend to hurt U.S. exporters and investors.
The nine-member religious freedom commission appointed by the president and
congressional leaders was set up to advise the State Department and the White
House on protection of religious freedom around the world.
Organized under a 1998 law that arose partly out of rising congressional
unease about alleged persecution of Christians abroad, it is headed by a
rabbi and a law school dean and includes people of the Christian, Muslim
and Baha'i faiths.
Under the law that created the panel, the State Department designated China,
Iran, Iraq, Burma and Sudan as "countries of particular concern" for
religious freedom. That designation subjects them to diplomatic and
economic sanctions. The department also lists Serbia and the Taliban
movement that rules most of Afghanistan as ``particularly severe violators
of religious freedom.''
©Copyright 2000, Associated Press
Page last updated/revised 021600
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