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Old Mar 24th, 2003, 01:55 PM        Halliburton reconsiders its operations in Iran
Halliburton reconsiders its operations in Iran
By Edward Alden in Washington
Published: March 24 2003 4:00 | Last Updated: March 24 2003 4:00

Halliburton, the US energy services company, has bowed to shareholder pressure to reconsider its operations in Iran, acknowledging "financial and reputational risks" from doing business in a country that the US considers a state sponsor of terrorism.

The company agreed on Friday with the New York City police and fire pension funds to establish a board committee to review its operations in Iran. The deal came after the Securities and Exchange Commission last week ordered Halliburton to allow a vote on the issue at its May 21 annual meeting.

William Thompson, New York City comptroller, said: "In the current global climate, it is important that shareholders have full and complete confidence that companies with which they do business are not, in any indirect way, supporting terrorists."

The agreement marks a significant concession by Halliburton, which has strongly rejected criticism of its involvement in Iran since it opened an office there in February 2000 through a subsidiary based in Dubai. US law prohibits American companies from direct business dealings with Iran.

The office was opened when US vice-president Dick Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive and repeatedly urged Washington to end sanctions on Iran, saying they hurt US companies and discouraged improved relations with Iran.

But, as vice-president, Mr Cheney was instrumental in declaring Iran one of three states, with Iraq and North Korea, constituting an "axis of evil" threatening the US.

The New York City pension funds submitted shareholder resolutions to Halliburton, General Electric and ConocoPhillips, urging them to review their ties with "terrorist-sponsoring states".

The funds argue that such links could embarrass the companies and hurt their share value. GE has already agreed to include the resolution in its financial return and ConocoPhillips is in talks with the funds.

In submissions to the SEC earlier this year, Halliburton tried to quash the resolution, saying its business in Iran represented a small fraction of its operations and posed no risks to shareholders.
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