Weir Group stands firm over Sudan

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The Independent Online

Weir Group yesterday hit out at criticism from human rights groups of its business in war-torn Sudan and said it would consider further projects there.

The Glasgow-based maker of pumps sold £20m worth of its products to the newly-emerging oil industry in Sudan in 1998. The pumps are vital for moving the oil through pipelines.

Weir brought over Sudanese engineers to be trained in Britain and it continues to service and provide spare parts for the pumps.

Human rights groups, led by Christian Aid, have castigated Weir for its involvement and charged that this makes it "complicit" in the Khartoum government's violent campaign against its own people in the south of the country.

Other British firms criticised for involvement include Rolls-Royce and BP Amoco. Aid agencies argue that the Sudanese government uses oil revenues to buy weapons, including helicopter gunships, which are then turned on its opponents. Tens of thousands of southerners have been driven out of oil-rich areas through a "scorched earth" campaign.

Reporting interim results yesterday, Sir Ron Garrick, Weir's chairman, admitted that the company had also secured a second Sudanese contract, although it was never announced. He suggested this new deal was worth less than £5m.

He added: "If the opportunity arises, we will be bidding for more work there. The British government is not recommending us to withdraw."

Sir Ron conceded that oil revenues could be used by the Sudanese government to buy arms. He said he was unsure whether there were widespread human rights abuse in Sudan, as he had never been there.

Christian Aid pointed out that the human rights situation in Sudan had been well documented by non-government organisations and the UN.