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May 29 - June 04, 2000

  1. International
  2. Finance
  3. Industry
  4. Policy
  5. Trade
  6. Gulf

NBK makes bid for MAIB

National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) made the largest bid to takeover Misr America International Bank (MAIB) in Egypt for about $116 million, bankers said.

Iraq to increase imports from Syria

Iraq has agreed to import $20 million worth of Syrian-produced medicines per year and to double imports via Syrian ports to one million tonnes this year, Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mahdi Saleh said on Friday.

The agreements were reached during talks in Damascus with the Syrian ministers of industry, health, economy and foreign trade and transportation, Saleh told Reuters.

"Agreement was reached to import medicines worth $20 million annually at a rate of $10 million every six months," he said.

A Syrian official quoted the health minister as expressing Syria's "keen interest to provide all types of support and help to our Arab people in Iraq and to provide all their needs of Syrian-made medicines." He said agreement in principle was reached to increase Baghdad's imports from state-owned Syrian factories producing foodstuffs and other household products.

World Bank loan victory over US

Iran's state news agency on Friday hailed a World Bank decision to grant some $230 million in loans to Tehran as a victory over the United States, saying it could pave the way for Iran to borrow $1 billion a year.

"The US was left licking its wounds on Friday following Iran's landmark victory at the World Bank over the decision...that is seen having important consequences for gaining other financing," IRNA news agency said.

"The implication for Iran is that World Bank officials have previously conservatively estimated that Iran could easily borrow $1 billion annually for the next 10 years," IRNA added.

Ignoring fierce objections from the United States, the World Bank on Thursday approved the two loans to fund health care and sewerage projects in Iran. The loans were the first World Bank credits to the Islamic republic since 1994.

Kuwait stock index, trading high

Kuwait's bourse ended the week to Wednesday slightly up as profit taking brought the index down from a new year high in record trading.

The Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE) index closed up 5.3 points, or 0.36 per cent, for the week at 1,457 points. On Sunday, it recorded a year high of 1,470.9 points. The index has been steadily rising this month from 41/2 year lows earlier in the year on the back of strong results by some listed firms and actual steps to liberalise the economy, including opening trading on the KSE to all foreigners.

Iran to resume Bahrain sea link

Bahrain and Iran have agreed to reopen a sea link between the two Gulf states to boost trade, five years after it was closed due to political unrest in Bahrain, a Bahraini businessman said on Wednesday.

Ali Al-Mussalam said that starting Saturday there would be one ferry trip every two weeks from Iran to Bahrain's main sea port of Mina Sulman.

"The ship, Valfajre, will ferry Iranian businessmen and tourists to Bahrain," Mussalam, who is also a member of Bahrain's Shura council, told Reuters.

Mussalam, who owns a travel agency and a shipping agency, said the company which operates the ship, Valfajre Shipping Co, is 51 percent owned by the

Iranian government and 49 per cent by the private sector.

Qatar, Bahrain fail to break impasse on land dispute

Qatar and Bahrain failed to break an impasse on their land dispute during a visit by the Qatari emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, on Wednesday and left the row to be resolved by the World Court.

A joint committee set up in December to improve ties between the two Gulf states until its meetings were suspended by Bahrain last week will only resume work after the World Court's verdict, the official news agency GNA reported.

"Bahrain and Qatar agreed that ... after the issue of the final verdict, the joint committee will resume its work," they said in a joint statement carried by GNA after the emir met his Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa.

Hizbollah tightens grip on south Lebanon

A Hizbollah fighter and two Israeli soldiers came face to face across the Lebanese-Israeli border on Wednesday.

For a tense moment, they stared at one another, their fingers on the trigger, then turned away.

Television footage showed Hizbollah sympathisers putting a red Hizbollah flag on the frontier fence at Fatma Crossing, as two Israel soldiers looked on 10 metres (yards) away.

Victorious Hizbollah fighters took full control of south Lebanon on Wednesday as Israeli forces completed their hurried withdrawal to draw down the curtain on 22 years of occupation.

The 1,000 square km (400 square mile) region that had served as Israel's "security zone" since 1985 was in the hands of Hizbollah fighters, setting up roadblocks, searching for Israeli collaborators and seizing weapons left behind.

Lebanese Prime Minister Selim Al-Hoss said he hoped Israel's withdrawal would lead to calm on the border, but he did not say what his government planned to do next.

U.N. Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen arrived in Beirut on Wednesday to discuss future security arrangements in accordance with U.N. resolutions that demanded the Israeli withdrawal.

Lebanese Army commander General Michel Sleiman said Lebanon would give no security guarantees to Israel unless they were part of a larger peace deal that returned more Arab land, including the Syrian Golan Heights.

Hizbollah fighters in cars and on foot moved into the main Christian town of Marjayoun and the last area to be vacated by Israel and its allies.

Church bells tolled as nervous residents lined streets after a sleepless night to watch the arrival of the fighters and civilians who had fled their homes during the occupation.

Iran, India to study gas pipeline through Pakistan

Iran and India have agreed to carry out technical studies for a gas pipeline linking their countries via Pakistan, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said in remarks reported Wednesday.

Kharazi was quoted by the financial press that he and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh held "very useful and concrete" talks on the pipeline.

The decision to study the pipeline came at the end of the joint Iranian-Indian economic committee's meetings Monday and Tuesday.

The committee agreed to create a panel to study "the project in its various political, economic, technical and security aspects." India also wants to buy Iranian petrochemical products, the press reported.

MEGA to hold IT energy forum

Navigating through the changing world of commerce, banking and governance following the implementation of electronic interactive methods will be an important theme at the first "Middle East IT for Energy Forum" which is set for May 27-29, according to Bahrain Tribune daily paper.

The event, organised by Middle East Global Advisers (MEGA) which will run from May 27-29 at the Gulf International Convention Centre, is among the first in the region to explore the impact of IT and e-business on the oil and gas industry, the paper said.

The need for this conference has never been greater and is underscored by two dramatic forces currently at play in the energy market according to a MEGA press release.

Iraq says Syria oil pipeline shows ties warming

The Iraqi vice-president said on Tuesday that Iraq's plans to reopen an oil pipeline which crosses Syria indicated a warming of ties between the two Arab neighbours.

"The issue comes within the framework of the improving economic relations between the two countries," Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan told reporters when asked about the plans.

"I cannot predict a date" for the pipeline to restart operations, he told reporters in Sanaa, where he had attended Yemen's national day celebrations.

Ties between Syria and Iraq, ruled by rival factions of the Baath party, deteriorated at the beginning of the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war when Syria sided with Tehran. They worsened when Damascus joined a US-led multinational force that drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in 1991.

The two countries decided three years ago to reopen their borders and to engage in economic and commercial cooperation.

Last month they agreed to establish diplomatic representation interest sections at the Algerian embassies in Baghdad and Damascus. In 1998, the two countries signed a deal to reopen the oil pipeline closed since 1982 and to build a new one with a capacity of 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd).

Oman to sign second power plant concession soon

Oman is expected to sign a final concession agreement with a consortium of local and international firms soon to build the country's second private power plant, a senior project official said.

He said that under the agreement the consortium would build the 200-megawatt power station in the southern city of Salalah on a build-own-operate-transfer basis.

Oman awarded the Dhofar consortium led by PSEG Global a letter of intent last year inviting the group for negotiations to build the 90 million rial ($234 million) Salalah Power Project.

Royal Dutch/ Shell is a member of the consortium, along with local contractors. PSEG Global is a subsidiary of US-based Public Services Enterprises Group Inc. The project would involve the consortium building the plant and then operating its generation, transmission and distribution.

US wants OPEC to pump more oil

US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said on Tuesday the United States may ask OPEC countries at their meeting next month to consider increasing oil production in a bid to lower US energy prices.

Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America" programme, Richardson said there were some fluctuations in the US gas market that needed to be dealt with.

"We've got to talk to OPEC countries to consider possibly increasing production, at least to keep their options open," Richardson said.

"What we are saying to OPEC, in a low-key fashion, is keep an open mind about increasing production because clearly the markets are tight, gasoline is tight. This is not just the United States," he said, adding that Asian countries were also affected.

OPEC countries are scheduled to meet on June 21 in Vienna to discuss oil production. At their last meeting in March, OPEC members agreed to increase production by 1.7 million barrels a day, but Richardson has indicated that did not go far enough to ease US gas prices.

Gulf Air secures $200 mln loan

Gulf Air has signed a 200 million dollar loan deal with a consortium of 10 European and Arab banks to finance the purchase of two Airbus A330-200 planes, the company announced Sunday.

Sheikh Ahmad bin Saif Al-Nahyan, president and chief executive of Gulf Air, signed the 10-year loan at an annual interest of 5.83 percent in Abu Dhabi late Saturday, a company statement said. The lenders include Lloyds TSB, Arab Bank, Qatar National Bank and German banks.

Jordan Hikma gets approval

Jordan's major pharmaceutical producer Hikma Group won the UK Medical Control Agency's (MCA) approval to register its generic products in Britain, its founder said on Sunday.

Samih Darwazah told Reuters the approval given last week would allow the private firm's Jordanian exports entry into the wider Eropean Union market for the first time.

Iran launches new car production line

Iran on Sunday launched a new-look sport utility vehicle targeting young drivers at home and abroad.

The new vehicle, named "Sinad", is the first offering from Kish Khodro Company, a joint venture based on the Gulf island of Kish, one of three free-trade zones set up to draw foreign investment.

Private Iranian investors hold 51 per cent of Kish Khodro shares, a state development bank owns 40 per cent and BMS Management, a British engineering group that designed the vehicle, holds a nine-per cent stake.