President Conoco at CERA urges US Government to reconsider sanctions

Feb 11, 1997 01:00 AM

Conoco's President and CEO has urged the US government to search for alternatives to unilateral sanctions that hurt the abilities of American energy companies to compete for investment and growth opportunities in many parts of the world. Archie W. Dunham told a conference of Cambridge Energy Research Associates that it sometimes seems that sanctions have become the only tool in the US policy kit. "When I see the list of potential (sanction) target countries, I'm reminded of the old saying, 'When your only tool is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.' In thinking about the effectiveness of sanctions in general, I'm inclined to wonder if we are hitting our thumbs more often, and harder, than the nail," Dunham said.
The CEO of Houston-based Conoco acknowledged the sensitivity of the sanctions topic. "Some of my colleagues at Conoco wish I wouldn't raise this touchy subject," he said. "They believe we're almost 'radioactive' on the issue of sanctions because of our experience withthe Sirri project in Iran in 1995. But I believe that the issue of sanctions needs to be discussed much more openly." Dunham referred to a Conoco agreement to develop hydrocarbon reserves offshore Iran. Although permissible under US law at the time, the contract was blocked by the US government, and the development project was quickly awarded by the National Iranian Oil Company to Total, a French company unrestrained by the US government action. He noted that the US government currently has sanctions in place against about 10 countries, with indications that stiffer sanctions are possible against some of these countries. Additionally, new sanctions are being considered on a half dozen other nations. Together, these countries represent a substantial chunk of the global market. "I don't question the goals of economic sanctions," Dunham said. "Very often, sanctions are used in the fight against some of the most challenging problems in the world today -- human rights abuse, weapons proliferation, drug traffickingand terrorism. And I recognise that there are times when the United States must stand alone for what we believe to be right. "In those times, US companies will always stand with our government," he said.
However, Dunham urged the US government to not only consider alternatives to sanctions, but to work hard to make them multilateral when they are effected. "If we cannot convince our allies to act with us, and yet we feel compelled to act alone, at least revisit the decision from time to time, Dunham said. "US companies are well equipped to help our nation achieve its foreign policy objectives by doing what they do best -- spreading investment, developing markets and creating jobs and opportunities around the world."We should be used as another tool in America's kit -- a tool for positive change," he said.

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