French eye investment in Sudan, dismiss US criticism
French businessmen said here Thursday, April 26, that Sudan offered great prospects for investment in oil, agriculture and other areas, saying they did not embrace the US stand that Sudan supports "terrorism." The 15-man delegation from MEDEF, which represents France's entire business community, was visiting Sudan because of "the great agricultural potential and discovered oil," MEDEF Managing Director Thierry Courtaigne said.
Executives for some 10 French firms working in Sudan have reported back home that they are happy, Courtaigne told AFP. "I would not have come here five years ago because (economic) indicators were not good, and now the indicators have become better and this is a good sign," he said. He said that business leaders wanted "political stability and a vision for the future," suggesting an improvement on that front. But he complained of a lack of finance and a slow bureaucracy.
He said he understood that Sudan was trying to normalize relations with international financing institutions, which he added would help boost infrastructure projects. He said MEDEF was willing to help in financing projects and that it would discuss this with Sudanese officials.
The delegation from MEDEF, which represents 1.5 million small, medium and large enterprises in France, includes firms operating in infrastructure, energy, aluminum, medical equipment, and the agroindustry. Courtaigne said a meeting on Wednesday with Central Bank Governor Sabir Mohammed al-Hassan was "frank and positive." He added that the Sudanese code of investment was "very liberal" and met all the requirements of foreign investors.
Courtaigne brushed aside the US stand that Sudan supports terrorism, saying France, like other European countries, builds ties overseas according to "our own interests." He added: "The US is the US and we, as Europeans, are different."
The United States broke off relations with Sudan in February 1996, accusing the state of sponsoring Islamic terrorism, but has now partially restored them. The UN Security Council imposed political sanctions two months later in response to Sudan's refusal to turn over suspects implicated in a failed 1995 assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia.
In a more recent development, US lawmakers on March 28 said oil firms operating in Sudan should be banned from borrowing money on US capital markets as they accused them of indirectly supporting the war in southern Sudan. Sudan, which has been engulfed in a civil war since 1983, started exporting oil in August 1999 through a pipeline linking oilfields in the south to the Red Sea with a capacity of around 200,000 barrels per day. —(AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)