Hospital Supply Giant Scraps Plans for Syrian Plant
CHICAGO (AP) _ Baxter International Inc., the world’s No. 1 maker of hospital supplies, abandoned plans to build a plant in Syria but said the move had nothing to do with a federal probe of its dealings in the Middle East.
Federal officials are investigating whether Baxter sold an Israeli plant in 1988 to clear the way for the Syrian operation. That would violate a U.S. law against cooperating with an Arab boycott of companies dealing with Israel.
Baxter spokesman Les Jacobson said it decided to scrap the deal with Syria because it had been criticized by Jewish groups and members of Congress.
″It’s important for us as health care company to be perceived as doing the right thing,″ he said. Jacobson said abandoning the Syrian plant is ″completely separate and distinct from the investigation under way.″
The American Jewish Congress praised Baxter’s reversal but said it does not clear the company of the allegations being investigated.
Barbara Lazarus, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment on Baxter’s move and would not discuss the investigation.
The suburban Deerfield-based company has not been charged with any crime, and chairman Vernon R. Loucks Jr. said Baxter has done nothing wrong.
Baxter agreed in 1990 to build a plant to manufacture intravenous solutions in Syria. No construction had begun, Jacobson said.
Loucks said that Baxter products will still be available in the Middle East through distributors and that Israel continues to be the company’s largest trading partner in the region.