Swedish construction group Skanska has announced its withdrawal from the Ilisu dam project in Turkey. Skanska said its decision to pull out of a seven-company consortium, of which it has a 24% stake, was due to unspecified negotiating problems and not related to protests by environmental and human rights groups. Opponents of the scheme say the dam will displace thousands of Kurds and harm the environment.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has also suggested that the UK may refuse to underwrite British contractor Balfour Beatty’s involvement in the scheme, because of environmental and human rights concerns. A parliamentary committee was critical of the government for failing to objectively evaluate impacts caused by building the dam in southeast Turkey. Balfour Beatty will lead the civil engineering component of the project.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Minister for Trade, Richard Carbon, has also launched a public consultation on the business principles under which the Export Credits Guarantee Department will operate from 2001. An official statement from the department said that the new code will guide its business practice on matter such as openness, debt sustainability, human rights, sustainable development, good governance and business integrity.