Canadian oil firms accused of funding Sudan civil war

Ottawa says it's planning a full investigation into Canadian oil exploration in the African country of Sudan. There are allegations the companies are contributing to the country's civil war, by indirectly funding the current regime.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy says the government takes these allegations seriously and will look into whether Canadian companies are conducting business properly.

Axworthy has invited Sudan's foreign minister and the country's rebel leader to Ottawa to talk about a peace agreement. He has also appointed a special peace envoy to the country. Senator Lois Wilson will take part in talks, aimed at reaching a ceasefire in the world's longest-running civil war.

Sudan has been embroiled in a civil war for over 43 years. Since 1983, the war has caused nearly two million deaths and displaced over four million people.

Canada's biggest independent oil company, Talisman Energy of Calgary is caught in the crossfire. It's part owner of a massive oil field there, with royalties paid to the Sudanese government. Aid workers quoted in a BBC documentary say the money buys weapons for a government accused of genocide.

Talisman denies the charges and says the royalties are only helping the struggling nation. The company says it was told by the Sudanese government that the proceeds for the oil project are going toward development, roads and hospitals.

Axworthy said he's hoping the observers will be able to find out what's really happening with Talisman's royalties. And, he says, if oil exploration is contributing to the conflict, he will consider economic and trade restrictions.