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Politics

State fights Iran, Sudan with money

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published June 9, 2007


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BOCA RATON - Florida became the first state in the nation Friday to have a law that its pension fund dollars are off-limits for investment in any companies doing business with Iran's energy sector or Sudan.

Several states have divested pension funds with companies doing business in Sudan, and some states have general policies against such investments. But none has yet put the action into law that divests funds from both countries.

"It's not just what's right for Florida. This is what's right for America, it's right for the world, " Gov. Charlie Crist said after signing the bill. "It says (to) Iran, the world's leading sponsor of terror, we will not stand idly by anymore. And to Sudan and the genocide that is occurring there, we will not stand idly by and let that happen anymore, not Florida."

About $1-billion of Florida state money is currently invested with companies that do business with Sudan and Iran's energy sector, said state Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, the bill's sponsor.

While the state has about $134-billion in its pension account, the fourth largest in the country, the measure also covers an additional $16-billion in state money that Florida invests in various markets.

Under the new law, companies will first be given an opportunity to stop doing business with the two countries before state funds are pulled. Deutch said the state should be fully divested within a year.

"Tens of billions of dollars nationwide are invested in companies that are making it easier for the Iranian government to develop nuclear weapons and to make it easier for Iran to produce weapons that are being used against our troops, " Deutch said.

Many states nationwide are now considering pulling their investments from companies that conduct business with Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, all of which are on the State Department's list of terror-sponsoring nations.

Sudan has attracted worldwide attention as the government and its militia allies are accused of pursuing a genocidal campaign in the Darfur region.

"The Florida legislation is absolutely precedent setting, " said Christopher Holton, vice president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington. "It's a basic moral issue. Do we really want any of our investment dollars going to our enemies? ... Doing business with Iran is like doing business with Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan in 1942."

[Last modified June 9, 2007, 01:27:26]


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