Canada may impose sanctions on oil producer in Sudan

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The Independent Online

Canada is considering sanctions on an oil firm involved in Sudan while the UK is promoting export opportunities there for British firms.

Canada is considering sanctions on an oil firm involved in Sudan while the UK is promoting export opportunities there for British firms.

British ministers faced new criticism yesterday after The Independent revealed that the Government had urged firms to invest in Sudanese oilfields at the centre of a civil war.

Thousands of people have been driven from their homes nearby and some of the oil proceeds have been used to fund the war, say human rights groups.

Although a Department of Trade and Industry report describing the Sudanese oil industry as "one of tremendous opportunity" has been withdrawn, export opportunities continue to be advertised on a Government website.

Dick Caborn, the energy minister, defended the Government's stance although his Foreign Office colleague Peter Hain protested to the Sudan government about human rights abuses in the oil operation.

Canadian ministers are considering a critical report on Talisman, Canada's biggest international oil producer, in Sudan.

An official commission ordered by the Canadian Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, is believed to have presented compelling evidence of how thousands have been driven from their homes around the Sudanese oil fields.

The Canadian government has revealed that an airstrip on one of Talisman's concessions has been used as a staging-point for military operations against rebel forces. The report's author, John Harker, said human rights were not being respected in Sudan. The Canadian government is likely to publish his findings next week.

Mr Axworthy asked Mr Harker to investigate after the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, expressed fears that the Sudanese government was using the oil to fund its war effort.

Yesterday an Oxfam spokesman said there was a marked difference between the attitude of Britain and Canada.

"While the Canadians seem willing to tackle the profound human rights implications of oil exploration in Sudan, Britain's DTI appears locked into a culture that promotes and protects the short-term interests of British business in Sudan and elsewhere," he said.

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