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NGO Accuses Norway Of Investing In Antipersonnel Mine Makers

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Oslo (AFP) Aug 30, 2005
Norway has invested public funds in companies that are involved in developing antipersonnel mines, thus violating its international commitments and its own ethical guidelines, a non-governmental organization here claimed on Tuesday.

According to Norwatch, an NGO that monitors the ethics of Norwegian businesses in developing countries, the Scandinavian country has invested nearly 250 million kroner (38 million dollars, 31 million euros) in the US companies General Dynamics, Textron and Alliant Techsystems.

These three companies are, according to Norwatch, involved in two arms programs, "Spider" and "Intelligent Munition Systems", which aim to develop and produce a new generation of antipersonnel mines for the US military.

The Ottawa Convention, which has been ratified by Norway and which entered into force in 1999, bans "the use, stockpiling, production and transfer" of any mines "designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons".

The money Norway has invested in the three US companies in question comes from the country's bountiful "oil fund", which contains nearly all of its oil revenues that have been set aside to pay for future generations in a post-oil era.

Norway, which is the world's third largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Russia, has determined that the oil funds can only be invested in companies that fulfill the ethical requirements sketched out by the Norwegian government.

These guidelines ban investments in certain types of arms producers, including companies that make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons as well as antipersonnel mines and cluster bombs.

The rules also block investments in companies that appear likely to indulge in large-scale human rights violations, corruption and environmental pollution.

"We continuously evaluate the nature of the companies that are invested in," said Gro Nystuen, head of the consultative ethics council that advises the Norwegian government on which companies to invest in.

"It is not yet clear whether the companies in question produce mines that fall into the category of antipersonnel mines," she told AFP.

The "oil fund", which today holds nearly 1.2 trilion kroner, halted investments earlier this year in the US oil company Kerr-McGee, which has been accused of operating in Western Sahara and profiting from the Moroccan occupation there.

The fund's investment in French oil company Total is also currently being investigated due to suspicion that the group's activities in Myanmar could be linked to the country's military junta.

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