The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has disclosed that it has asked Ford to detail its business ties to Syria, Iran and Sudan - three countries the US government considers "terrorist-sponsoring states."

According to a Reuters report, the SEC asked Ford to demonstrate that its reputation and share value were not at risk because of its business in those countries.

The report said that Ford sells vehicles through dealerships in Syria, while its Land Rover subsidiary sells its sports utility vehicles through a British distributor in Sudan.

Mazda, in which Ford has a 33% controlling stake, sells its products through Japanese trading companies in Iran and Syria, Ford has admitted.

"Our limited and lawful business activity in Syria is public information, and we have not been able to identify any resulting negative impact on our reputation or share value," Ford said in a letter to the SEC dated Aug. 16, 2006.

The SEC responded to Ford a week later, saying it had no further comment on the company's annual financial report.

Reuters said that the 'unusual exchange' between Ford and the SEC follows letters written by the regulatory body to European and US oil companies, asking them to inform investors about the risks they face from investing in countries the US identifies as those supporting terrorism.

Ford said in the letter to the SEC that sales of Mazda vehicles by the distributors to outlets in Iran and Syria combined resulted in sales revenue of less than US$60m in 2004 and 2005, and US$85m in 2003.

"We do not believe that this de minimis business activity by Mazda impacts Ford's reputation or share value, or the value of Ford's ownership interest in Mazda," it said in the letter.

Ford further said it did not believe that any of the vehicle sales by dealerships in Syria in recent years were to the Syrian government or government-controlled groups.

But Ford said Land Rover vehicles were sold to various government departments in Sudan, with the bulk of the sales volume going to the Sudan's Ministry of Interior.

"We have been advised further that the other government sales have been largely used for agricultural development purposes," Ford said in the letter.