. .


Jun 05 - Jun 11, 2000

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

Iran reformers make bid for parliament leadership

Liberal allies of President Mohammad Khatami said on Wednesday they would mount a fresh challenge for leadership of Iran's new parliament after an initial loss to veteran revolutionaries.

"We will definitely take over part of the leadership after the vote for a permanent presiding board," an aide to Mohammad Reza Khatami, the president's brother, told Reuters.

"(Mohammad Reza) Khatami has a 90 per cent chance of becoming deputy speaker of parliament," he said.

Khatami, who heads the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), the leading reformist movement, was the biggest vote-winner in Tehran and other big cities and was tipped to take an important post in the new assembly.

But parliament on Tuesday elected two Old Guard revolutionaries and clerics — Mehdi Karroubi and Majid Ansari — as interim speaker and his first deputy, ignoring demands from the IIPF and its allies for a younger and fresher representation.

"The traditional model does not guarantee social growth. There is a need for young and little-known faces to run affairs," said one pro-reform MP, Ahmad Pournejati.

Mohammad Reza Khatami had earlier said his group had chosen to keep a low profile to avert division within the reformist alliance and prevent possible gains by the minority conservative camp.

But newspapers on Wednesday quoted him as saying his group might mount a fresh challenge in a little over a week.

"We will evaluate the performance of the temporary presiding board. In the meantime, we will try for a single list within the reformist camp," he said.

Parliament is widely expected to help consolidate President Khatami's reform programme, stumbling in the face of hardline opposition.

But the pace of reform to be followed by the assembly will not be known until members vote on key issues.

Oman to start exporting LNG

Oman LNG said on Wednesday it would export two million cubic metres of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Spain, with the first delivery scheduled in the fourth quarter of 2000.

"We have an agreement with Spanish firm Enagas to deliver 17 cargoes of LNG between the last quarter of this year and the second quarter of 2001," Oman LNG Marketing Manager Haroub al-Kitani told Reuters.

Oman shipped its first cargo of LNG in April to South Korea from the Oman LNG terminal in the eastern coastal city of Sur.

OPEC may raise production if prices stay high

OPEC could raise production if the price of crude oil remains high, its current president, Venezuelan Energy Minister Ali Rodriguez, announced Tuesday.

Stressing that the mean price of OPEC oil had topped 28 dollars per barrel during the last 10 days, Rodriguez told reporters that if this tendency lasts, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will increase production as a corrective measure.

At its last meeting in Vienna in March, OPEC agreed that production will be increased by 500,000 barrels per day if average prices exceed 28 dollars — and cut by the same amount if prices dip below 22 dollars — for 20 days.

The next meeting of OPEC ministers is planned for June 21 in Vienna.

IDB lends Jordan $29 mln

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has signed a $29 million agreement with a Jordanian firm to finance the leasing of equipment for a bromine project.

An IDB statement, received on Wednesday, said the facility raised to $1.1 billion the total financing provided by the bank to Jordan.

Iraq pumping 3.1 mln barrels of oil a day

Oil production has reached 3.1 million barrels a day in Iraq, 2.5 million barrels of it for export, Oil Minister Amer Rashid said Wednesday.

"Iraq's oil production is currently 3.1 million bpd and we hope to lift it to 3.3 million barrels a day before the end of the year," Rashid told a Baghdad press conference.

Daily exports averaged 2.5 million barrels in May, he added.

IDB to lend Lebanon $100 mln

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) said it had agreed to lend Lebanon $100 million to help finance the reconstruction of south Lebanon after the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

A statement from the Jeddah-based bank, received on Tuesday, said the facility included a $10 million soft loan to help finance the rebuilding of schools and hospitals in the south.

Another $90 million would be provided through other financing facilities to rebuild roads, power stations and water projects.

Iran sells soap to Iraq

Iran is to export 750 tonnes of soap to Iraq, its former enemy, under the United Nations' oil-for-food programme that has restricted trade with Baghdad since 1990, the press reported Monday.

The 600,000-dollar consignment will be shipped from Khorramshahr to the southern Iraqi port city of Basra "in the next 50 days," Mohsen Karvan, boss of soap firm Yass, was quoted as saying.

Saudi confident in energy investment race

Western oil giants gearing up to negotiate investments in Saudi Arabia are likely to accept a hard bargain as the price of long-term access to the kingdom's fabulous oil and gas riches, analysts say.

"Companies just want a foot in the door in Saudi Arabia," a Western source said.

Even though the returns from currently discussed projects are expected to be modest, the kingdom is confident it will attract $100 billion in investment despite competition from rival regional oil and gas powers which are also opening their doors to foreigners.

The terms are still unclear two years after the kingdom made a rare call for investment. But that hasn't deterred foreign firms keen on Saudi Arabia's unrivalled resources — the world's largest oil and fifth largest gas reserves.

"My guess is the Saudis will not want to give away too much," said an expert on Gulf oil industries.

"They are aware of their own self-worth and will not want to be seen to give away more than their neighbours. So the eventual terms will not be a giveaway, with rates of return reasonably limited." Although companies know that at present they won't get their hands on the heart of the Saudi industry — oil exploration and production — they will invest big money in less profitable gas projects.

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah sparked a frenzy when he asked foreign firms for their investment ideas two years ago.

TotalFina, Eni, Marathon, BP Amoco, Conoco, Royal Dutch/Shell, Phillips Petroleum, Chevron, Exxon Mobil Corp, Texaco, Enron Corp and Occidental Petroleum are elbowing furiously for Saudi deals.

Companies initially dreamed of getting their hands on the prized upstream oil business, a hope that faded after the Saudis made it clear their priority was gas.

GCC wants EU free trade deal within a year

Gulf Arab states, concerned at the slow pace of negotiations with the European Union, have urged the EU to speed up talks to reach a free trade agreement between the two sides within a year.

A statement issued by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretariat said the Gulf Arab position was relayed to the EU countries at talks in Brussels last week.

It said the oil-rich GCC states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — urged the EU at the talks "to speed up the negotiations and to conclude this agreement by a date that does not exceed one year from now".

The EU and the GCC said last week after their talks that they were deeply committed to reaching a free trade accord and would begin detailed negotiations for specific products in June.

UN frees $143 mln in farm equipment for Iraq

The United Nations has released $143 million in farm equipment for sanctions-bound Iraq in a bid to alleviate the impact of a severe, two-year-long drought, a senior UN official said on Monday.

Iraq bought the equipment under the UN "oil for food" programme, a key part of the sanctions regime imposed over Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Iraqi troops were ejected from Kuwait by US-led multinational forces in the 1991 Gulf War.

Amir Khalil, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) representative in Iraq, warned that the drought would wreak devastation on Iraqi agriculture and livestock if swift measures were not taken.

"I am glad to report that we managed to release $143 million for agriculture and irrigation inputs," Khalil told Reuters.

Gulf states pledge to accelerate economic reforms

Saudi Arabia's finance minister said Gulf Arab states would continue to open up their markets and forge ahead with privatization to maintain economic growth.

"It is envisaged that private sector activity will be the main vehicle for achieving sustainable economic growth and diversification," Finance and National Economy Minister Ibrahim Abdel Aziz Al-Assaf said in a speech, a copy of which was received by Reuters.

"We are fully convinced that such increased involvement of the private sector can only occur in an open economy, free of exchange and trade restrictions and firmly anchored in a stable macroeconomic environment and a flexible labour market," he said.

Assaf was speaking at a meeting in the Saudi Arabian capital of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) finance ministers and a team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) headed by IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer.

Car maker eyes world market share

Iran's leading car maker is rapidly expanding with new designs and technology, hoping to grab a share of the international market in the coming years, the president of the company said on Monday.

Manouchehr Qaravi, the president of Iran Khodro Group, the leading car maker in the Middle East, said his company would role out three luxury cars over the next year, one of them totally designed and manufactured in Iran.

PALTEL reports profits

The Palestine Telecommunications Company (PALTEL) reported net profits of JOD6.37 million in 1999, a drop of around 25% over last year. Despite the 20% rise in revenue, which reached JOD64.751 million, interest expense rose by almost 400% to reach JOD4.056 million.

Deutsche Bank ventures

Deutsche Bank has reveled plans for establishing a dedicated Islamic banking unit joining other major international banks in that field, according to a MEED report.

Administered from London, but operating out of the bank's representative office in Bahrain, the unit is to be headed by Richard Duncan, formerly the head of the Islamic finance division of ABN AMRO, the report said.

JNB buys Lebanon bank

Kuwait Financial Centre (KFC) said on Monday it had arranged the sale of 85 percent of Bank of Lebanon and Kuwait to Jordan National Bank for $25.65 million. A Centre official told his company sold its entire 30 percent stake in the Lebanon-based bank which had total assets of about $100 million at end-1999.

Iraq to increase imports

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.

Anti-corruption campaign

Kuwaiti parliamentarians on an anti-corruption drive on Wednesday demanded regular government reports on high-profile graft cases involving hundreds of millions of dollars and an array of former senior officials.

MPs angry at alleged official apathy about corruption passed a resolution seeking detailed data three times a year on court cases involving alleged theft of public money and steps taken to retrieve it.

The resolution, which is not binding on the government, seeks reports every October, January and April.

The cases, featuring former senior oilmen and investment chiefs, involve corruption scandals that emerged after Kuwait's 1991 Gulf War liberation from Iraqi occupation amid public fury over abuse of public funds in the oil-rich Gulf state.