WASHINGTON — Two human rights groups on Monday expressed concern about US President Barack Obama's nominee to a senior diplomatic post because of his links to a Chinese oil company with ties to Sudan's government.
Genocide Intervention Network and Investors Against Genocide urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to question Robert Hormats closely about his relationship, as vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, with PetroChina.
"We are concerned about the instrumental role that Mr Hormats played in reassuring the public and the financial markets about PetroChina in preparation for that company's initial public offering," said Sam Bell of the Genocide Intervention Network and Eric Cohen of Investors Against Genocide.
"PetroChina's IPO raised strong opposition due to the extensive dealings between its parent company, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the Government of Sudan, which was under US sanctions and was engaged in widespread crimes against humanity and human rights abuses in its war against Sudan's south," they said.
Bell and Cohen expressed their concerns in a letter to Democratic Senator John Kerry and Republican Senator Richard Lugar, the senior members of the foreign relations committee, which is charged with vetting Hormats as nominee to be Undersecretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs.
The US government slapped wide-ranging sanctions on Sudan's government in 1997 after declaring Khartoum a state sponsor of terrorism, and has imposed more punitive measures over the counry's civil war and violence in Darfur.
Bell and Cohen said that while some 500 international firms operate in Sudan, "a few dozen companies' operations disproportionately fuel Khartoum's capacity for abuse while offering little benefit to Sudan's citizens."
"Among the latter, China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) is known as the largest and most involved," they charged.
"CNPC is the largest player in Sudan's oil industry, holding the controlling and managing stake in the majority of Sudan's oil-producing blocks. This industry provides Khartoum with the great bulk of its revenue, some seventy percent of which is reportedly directed towards its military,' they said.
State-owned CNPC had pledged that PetroChina would not be involved in Sudan-related activities, and Hormats repeatedly sought to allay investors' concerns about the firewall.
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