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Monday, August 16, 2004

Report: U.S. pension funds indirectly support terror

A report shows U.S. pension funds indirectly support terror

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. public pension funds indirectly support terrorists by investing billions of dollars in companies that do business in nations that sponsor terrorism, a think-tank said in a report on Thursday.

"Let's not mince words, this enables terror by propping up and providing life blood to these terror-sponsoring regimes," Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, told reporters in a conference call unveiling the 111-page report.

Gaffney later told Reuters in a telephone interview he hopes the report will help launch a divestment movement similar to the one directed against South Africa's apartheid regime.

"I'm looking for tools that can help win the war on terror," Gaffney said. "We ought to give it a chance to work against people who are trying to kill us."

The biggest public pension funds currently have $188 billion invested in companies doing business in Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and Iraq when ruled by Saddam Hussein, the report said.

The six nations are on the U.S. State Department's list of states that are believed to sponsor terrorism. Cuba is also on the list. Iraq would be removed from the list when the new government officially denounces terrorism, a State Department spokesman said.

The pension systems generally held 15 to 23 percent of their assets in companies allegedly doing business in the six nations, the report said.

It said the largest public pension fund, Calpers, the California Public Employees Retirement System, has over $17 billion invested in 201 companies doing business in countries the United States accuses of sponsoring terrorism.