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Protesters bring chaos to BICC meeting

ANGRY EXCHANGES between BICC chairman Lord Weir and human rights activists brought the contractor's final annual general meeting this week to a chaotic close.

Weir aborted the meeting as protesters - accounting for half the shareholders present - stood on chairs singing Kurdish anthems and holding up pictures of mutilated corpses in protest at the firm's involvement in a consortium lined up to build the Ilisu dam in Turkey.

The meeting was intended to underpin the company's relaunch under the Balfour Beatty name this week following the disposal last year of BICC's cable assets.

But protesters, who had bought shares in the company to gain access to the meeting, upset the event with claims that the dam will displace some 25,000 people, predominantly Kurds.

They also claimed the dam's storage capacity would deprive downstream neighbours Syria and Iraq of water for up to three months.

But at the meeting Weir denied the decision to build the dam was an issue for the company. 'I would recommend you take your case to the Government, ' he responded.

BICC's final results for 1999 showed the group's pre-tax profits down to £51M from £70M in 1998. Turnover was also cut to £2.9bn from £3.98bn in 1998. Balfour Beatty said it was now focusing on construction, in particular, civil engineering and railways projects.

The Department of Trade & Industry's export credit guarantee agency, ECGD, is considering whether to underwrite £200M construction costs on the Ilisu dam project if funding from the Turkish government falls through.

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