General electric halts new business in iran
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Feb. 2, 2005, 9:14PM
GE to halt new orders for business in Iran
Company follows Halliburton after pressure applied
By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN
STAMFORD, CONN. - General Electric Co., which has been accused of collecting "blood money" by doing business in Iran, will stop accepting any new orders for business in the country, company officials said Wednesday.
The move by the world's largest company by market value comes just days after another conglomerate, Houston-based Halliburton Co., announced the company will wind down its operations in Iran.
"We're seeing a turnaround by a number of U.S. companies operating in Iran," said Dan Katz, chief counsel to U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
Katz said the moves may signal an imminent change in U.S. policy that has allowed foreign subsidiaries of American companies to do business in Iran.
Last year, Lautenberg accused GE and other American companies of collecting "blood money" by doing business with countries the United States says sponsors terrorism and said he would push for legislation to stop it. New York City comptroller William Thompson, as manager of employee pension funds, has also pressured GE and other companies.
Under current law, U.S. firms are not allowed to do business with nations deemed by the United States to sponsor terrorism. But the law does not specifically bar foreign subsidiaries from such business.
"Our business activities in Iran are fully compliant with U.S. law," said Gary Sheffer, a GE spokesman.
Lautenberg said the companies should not have been operating in Iran.
"When American companies do business with Iran they are helping the Iranians create revenue that is funneled to terrorists," Lautenberg said.
GE said it decided on the moratorium in December. The decision, which became effective Tuesday, comes amid tensions and threats of sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.
Under international pressure, Iran suspended uranium enrichment and related activities in November, hoping to avoid U.N. sanctions. The nation has said it will decide within three months whether to continue its suspension.
Lautenberg and Thompson have singled out three companies — Halliburton Co., Houston-based ConocoPhillips, and GE — for exploiting what they said was a loophole in the law.