; Nov 3, 2000 

A discreet way of doing business with Iraq

   Millions of dollars of US oil business with Iraq are being channelled
discreetly through European and other companies, in a practice that has
highlighted the double standards now dominating relations between
Baghdad and Washington after a decade of crippling sanctions.

   Though legal, leading US oil service companies such as Halliburton,
Baker Hughes, Schlumberger, Flowserve, Fisher-Rosemount and others, have
used subsidiaries and joint venture companies for this lucrative
business, so as to avoid straining relations with Washington and
jeopardising their ties with President Saddam Hussein's government in

   By submitting their contracts to the UN via mainly French
subsidiaries, many of which do little more than lend their name to the
transaction, the companies are treated as European, rather than US or
Japanese, applicants.

   In 1998 the UN passed a resolution allowing Iraq, the world's sixth
largest oil producer, to buy spare parts for its dilapidated oil

   Since then, only two of the 3,058 contracts for oil industry parts
that have been submitted to the UN have officially come from US
companies. But the facts behind these figures tell a very different

   US companies have in fact submitted contracts worth at least $100m to
the UN for approval to supply Iraq with oil industry spare parts,
through their foreign subsidiaries. Some informed estimates put that
value as high as $170m.

   They have used, or allowed, associated companies, mainly in France,
but also in Belgium, Germany, India, Switzerland, Bahrain, Egypt and the
Netherlands, to put the contracts through.

   "It is a wonderful example of how ludicrous sanctions have become,"
says Raad Alkadiri, analyst at the Petroleum Finance Company, a
Washington-based consulting firm.

   "On the one hand you have the Americans, who do not want to be seen
trading with Iraq, despite the fact that it is above board and
legitimate, because that would contradict their image of being tough
towards Iraq. On the other hand you have the Iraqis, who on the
technocratic level would like to buy the best stuff on the market - in
many cases that comes from the US - but politically have to be able to
say they are refusing to deal with US companies," he said.

   Halliburton, the largest US oil services company, is among a
significant number of US companies that have sold oil industry equipment
to Iraq since the UN relaxed sanctions two years ago.

   From 1995 until August this year Halliburton's chief executive
officer was Dick Cheney, US secretary of defence during the Gulf war and
now Republican vice-presidential running mate of George W.Bush.

   From September 1998 until it sold its stake last February,
Halliburton owned 51 per cent of Dresser-Rand. It also owned 49 per cent
of Ingersoll-Dresser Pump, until its sale in December 1999. During the
time of the joint ventures, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll-Dresser Pump
submitted more than $23.8m worth of contracts for the sale of oil
industry parts and equipment to Iraq. Their combined total amounted to
more than any other US company; the vast majority was approved by the
sanctions committee.

   Mr Cheney is not the only Washington heavyweight to have been
affiliated with a company trading with Iraq. John Deutch, a former
director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a member of the board of
Schlumberger, the second largest US oil services company.

   Schlumberger has submitted at least three contracts for well-logging
equipment and geological software via a French subsidiary, Services
Petroliers Schlumberger, and through Schlumberger Gulf Services of

   Some of the companies, such as General Electric and Dresser-Rand, say
that not only political considerations shape their decision to do
business through their European offices.

   "It is customary for GE to do its business for the Middle East out of
its European offices," says Louise Binns, a GE spokeswoman, who
acknowledged that GE does business with Iraq. Other companies the FT
contacted admitted doing business with Iraq, either directly or through
their subsidiaries.

   US companies that use foreign associates can also reduce the risk of
their contracts being blocked by France and Russia in retaliation for
blocks by the US.

   The US is behind nearly all the $289m of contracts delayed by the
sanctions committee, which has received $1.7bn of contracts. These
delays were ostensibly intended to prevent transfer to Iraq of dual-use
technology that could be adapted for military purposes.

   "Washington doesn't want to enable the Iraqi economy to recover,
therefore it keeps the infrastructure very weak," a UN diplomat said.

   However, Iraq is the US's second biggest Middle Eastern oil supplier
after Saudi Arabia, making Washington uneasily dependent on Iraq's
steady oil flow. Using this influence as an oil provider, as well as the
ties it has developed with US business, Iraq has tried to acquire
lobbying power in the US.

   Despite the US business ties to Iraq, however, fear of official US
disapproval of contacts with Baghdad has also prompted one US ally -
Japan - to do its trade through third parties.

   Tomen, the Japanese company supplying industrial transport equipment
to Iraq, submits its contracts through its French subsidiary, Tomen

   US companies have themselves been among those which have suffered
from the US practice of blocking contracts. But they have an edge when
it comes to arguing for the approval of their contracts, diplomats say.

   By temporarily dropping their guise as European companies, they have
managed to reverse the blocks by going directly to US officials, rather
than having their case argued by the European mission on behalf of their

   At least two US companies have recently managed to reverse
Washington's objections over their contracts. In an exchange of letters
between company officials and one UN mission, seen by the FT, it became
clear the US companies had resolved its case directly with Washington.
Few non-US companies have been able to exercise similar influence.

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