Big Medical Supply Company Scraps Plans For Syrian Plant
CHICAGO (AP) _ Baxter International Inc. announced today it is abandoning plans to built a plant in Syria because of controversy over the medical supply giant’s dealings in the Middle East.
But the company continues to deny allegations that it agreed to sell an Israeli operation in order to be removed from an Arab blacklist of companies that do business with Israel.
Federal officials are investigating whether Baxter sold the Israeli plant to clear the way for the Syrian operation, which would have been in violation of a U.S. law against cooperating with the Arab boycott.
Baxter agreed in 1990 to build a plant to manufacture intravenous solutions in Syria, although that country remains on the U.S. government’s list of countries said to be aiding and harboring terrorists.
″We had only one intention in agreeing to build in Syria,″ Baxter Chairman Vernon R. Loucks Jr. said in a statement released from its suburban Deerfield headquarters. ″We intended to bring Baxter’s life-saving health- care products more directly to the people of the Arab world.″
″The volatile situation throughout the Middle East and controversy surrounding Syria in particular now lead us to change our plan,″ Loucks said.
He noted that Baxter products will still be available in the Middle East through distributors, and that Israel continues to be the company’s largest Middle east trading partner.
Loucks, commenting on the federal probe, said Baxter ″has done nothing wrong.″
″Baxter will cooperate, as it has all along, with the government’s study,″ he said.
Baxter is the world’s largest supplier of hospital supplies, with sales exceeding $8 billion last year.