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International Ire Stops Short of Embargo on Nigerian Oil

<i> From Reuters</i>

An enraged international community Sunday heaped pressure on Nigeria for hanging nine minority-rights activists but ruled out oil sanctions as an immediate option against its military government.

That exemption angered Nigerian human rights activists who argued that the oil industry is controlled by a tiny clique of people in power who are draining off national oil revenues for personal use.

The United States buys half of Nigeria’s oil exports, and British oil firms have huge investments in the West African state.

But, pondering economic sanctions, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, said possible future measures against Nigeria included freezing the assets held in Europe by the Nigerian military and extending visa restrictions to civilian government members and their families.

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The Nigerian regime was unmoved by the barrage of protests. Gen. Sani Abacha’s spokesman insisted that the head of state is still committed to restoring Africa’s most populous state to democracy.

The leaders of Britain and the former British colonies suspended Nigeria from the 52-nation Commonwealth, and the United States and the EU withdrew their ambassadors.

But British Prime Minister John Major, like the Clinton Administration, adopted a cautious stance on oil sanctions, saying an embargo could harm the people and not the military leaders.

The son of executed activist Ken Saro-Wiwa quoted his father in calling for oil sanctions. The younger Ken Saro-Wiwa, back in London after the Commonwealth summit in New Zealand, also attacked its leaders for taking the route of quiet diplomacy, saying that it had failed to save his father.

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