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Presbyterian group targets 5 firms it says gains from Mideast violence

NEW YORK -- A Presbyterian committee accused five companies yesterday of contributing to ''ongoing violence that plagues Israel and Palestine" and pledged to use the church's multimillion-dollar stock holdings in the businesses to pressure them to stop.

The move follows a vote last year by leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to put economic pressure on companies that profit from Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza.

The vote had outraged Jewish groups, which said the strategy was biased. Presbyterian leaders said divestment would be only a last resort, if corporate and stockholder discussions failed. ''We are initiating a slow, deliberate process," said Bill Somplatsky-Jarman, who works with the Presbyterian Mission Responsibility through Investment Committee.

The targeted companies are Caterpillar Inc., Citigroup, ITT Industries Inc., Motorola Inc., and United Technologies Corp.

The Presbyterians accused all except Citigroup of selling products such as night vision equipment and helicopters to the Israeli military. They accused Citigroup of being part of a conduit for funds used to support Mideast terrorist groups. A Citigroup spokeswoman called the claim ''an outrage" and said the company worked closely with the US government to help stop financing of terrorism. United Technologies said it was ''ethical and responsible" and fully complied with regulations. Caterpillar said it was in no way linked to wrongdoing in the Mideast. ITT had no immediate comment.

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