* Initiative to combat corruption in energy, mining
* EITI group approves applications
* Rights group criticises Ethiopian candidacy
* Yemen membership suspended
(Adds U.S., Yemen, PNG, changes dateline)
OSLO/ADDIS ABABA, March 19 Ethiopia, the United
States and Papua New Guinea are on course to join the leading
world initiative to combat corruption in the energy and mining
The Oslo-based Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
(EITI) approved their applications on Wednesday, drawing swift
criticism from human rights campaigners for admitting Ethiopia.
The three now have three years comply with EITI standards.
Ethiopia has no proven petroleum reserves and a small mining
industry driven by potash producers. Rights activists accuse it
of political repression.
New York-based Human Rights Watch, which had asked the EITI
board to reject the East African country's membership bid, said
the EITI's reputation had been damaged.
"The EITI's decision to admit Ethiopia without insisting on
reforms is an affront to the local activists who have been
jailed or exiled for calling for a more transparent, accountable
government," Lisa Misol, a senior researcher at HRW, said in a
The Addis Ababa government did not comment on its successful
Commercial oil finds in neighbouring Kenya have raised hopes
of a strike in neighbouring Ethiopia.
International explorers in Ethiopia include London-listed
Tullow Oil and Africa Oil which are drilling
along the country's southern border with Kenya.
Home to Sub-Saharan Africa's second largest population,
Ethiopia is among the continent's fastest growing economies. But
the opposition and rights campaigners there accuse the
government of stifling dissent and torturing political
detainees, allegations the government strongly denies.
"In its discussions, the EITI Board stressed the importance
of ensuring civil society engagement in Ethiopia's efforts to
comply with the EITI Standard," the group said on its web site.
An earlier effort by Ethiopia to join was rebuffed in 2010.
At the Oslo meeting Yemen, an exporter of oil and gas and
one of the poorest nations in the Middle East, was suspended as
an EITI member.
It did not report in time its 2011 income from oil and gas,
due to the turmoil of the Arab Spring, Clare Short, EITI
chairwoman told Reuters. She said it was encouraged to keep
trying to stay in the initiative and meet the rules.
United States membership commits its federal government to
disclosing all the payments it receives for the exploitation of
oil and minerals on federal lands, which would include the money
it gets from offshore oil and gas exploration and production.
"The U.S. have all sorts of different reporting in their
system, which is quite complex. Some is reported at the federal
level, some is at state level, and Native Americans ... have
different systems," Clare Short, chairwoman of the EITI, told
"Getting an overview and getting some figures that people
can look at and scrutinise ... will help people have better
transparency and accountability."
Currently energy firms active in the U.S. may break out
profits and production by regions of activities, like the Gulf
But they do not break out profits made on federal land in
earnings reports or in filings to the Securities and Exchange
Abroad, U.S.-registed companies are already required to
disclose payments made to governments for access to resources.
The EITI has stakeholders in the public and private sectors
and requires resource companies to disclose payments made to
governments and the latter to publish what payments they
EITI terms are not legally binding, but member countries
that fall short of requirements can be suspended from the
process, leading to political embarrassment. Some 44 nations are
(Reporting By Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa, Gwladys Fouche in
Oslo and Pascal Fletcher in Johannesburg; Writing by Richard
Lough, editing by William Hardy)