EU leaders assail U.S. on foreign investments Europeans are concerned about measures aimed at Cuba, Iran and Libya

June 23, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

FLORENCE, Italy -- Leaders of the 15 European Union countries, four of whom will meet this week with President Clinton in France, expressed strong criticism yesterday of U.S. legislation that would impose economic penalties on foreign companies that invest in Cuba, Iran or Libya.

The European leaders registered "deep concern" about the Helms-Burton Act, which would restrict non-U.S. foreign investment in Cuba, and similar legislation being sponsored by Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, a New York Republican, that would penalize foreign companies that made large investments in Libya or Iran.

The European Union, its leaders said, threatened to retaliate against these or other U.S. attempts to impose what they called an extraterritorial secondary boycott against the target countries. Europe, like most of the rest of the world, does not support the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba and maintains what it calls a "critical dialogue" with Iran.

Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act despite reservations about provisions that would threaten foreign companies with lawsuits and exclude their executives from U.S. soil if they used any Cuban property that was ever confiscated from someone who is now a U.S. citizen.

D'Amato recently wrote to the French oil company Total SA, warning it that proceeding with a $600 million acquisition of two Iranian oil fields from Conoco could threaten Total's ability to conduct business in the United States.

U.S. diplomats in Paris said earlier last week that they did not expect the new legislation to cause much trouble at the meeting of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations, which starts Thursday in Lyons, France.

The leaders of four countries that will be represented in Lyons -- France, Italy, Germany and Britain -- were among those who unanimously approved yesterday's statement in the name of the European Union.

European officials said they expected the United States to draw its own conclusions about how to apply the legislation, given the opposition.

Another source of friction with the United States could be Clinton's decision, announced last week, to oppose the re-election of United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Boutros-Ghali, who enjoys the respect of most of the European allies, has been invited to Lyons by the host of the meeting, President Jacques Chirac of France.

Aides to Chirac said he would give Boutros-Ghali an opportunity in Lyons to answer Clinton administration criticism that he was not up to the task of reforming the bureaucracy of the United Nations. But the European leaders aligned themselves closely yesterday with U.S. positions on the Middle East and Russia, urging all parties in the Middle East to search for peace and expressing support for the consolidation of democracy in Russia.

Pub Date: 6/23/96

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