Jul 03 - 09, 2000
Four dead in Kuwait
Four people were killed and 49 injured in a blast at Kuwait's biggest
oil refinery on Sunday. Eyewitnesses said a section of the Mina al-Ahmadi refinery
continued to burn for more than seven hours after the blast. Officials said the explosion
had occurred at a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) plant.
The Governor of Ahmadi region, Sheikh Ali Abdullah al Sabah, told
reporters that the fire resulted from a gas leak in a pipe. It took several hours to
extinguish the fire.
The explosion affected an area within a radius of five kilometres of
the refinery. The officials discounted possibility of sabotage. The explosion was so
intense that it shattered windows in offices and other buildings at the complex and in
townships nearby. Huge clouds of black smoke gathered above the refinery.
At least one of the dead was a Kuwaiti national. Others remained
unidentified. The refinery, with a capacity of around 443,000 barrels per day, has been
shut down. Officials said the refinery was expected to remain closed for at least one
The country's two other refineries were functioning normally and
Kuwait's export operations were continuing without interruption.
The cabinet appointed a committee, headed by Oil Minister Sheikh Saud
Nasser Al Sabah, to investigate the accident.
Last week an explosion from a gas leak from another refinery at Shuaiba
port had resulted in the death of two Kuwaiti employees and a slight injury to four
Agencies add: Oil Minister Sheikh Saud Nasser al-Sabah said some units
at the Al-Ahmadi refinery would remain closed for several months. "The damage is not
small. We don't exactly know the amount of damage yet. Some units will cease operations
for months, and others for weeks," said the minister, calling the blast a
But he added that Kuwait's oil exports would not be affected, although
some contracts for refined products would have to be scrapped.
US, Jordan set to start free trade talks
US Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat said on Monday the United
States and Jordan would start talks on a landmark free trade agreement this week.
Eizenstat said US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and a senior
Jordanian delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Halaykah, whose country is one
of the biggest recipients of US foreign aid, would start hammering out the accord.
"We are commencing discussions this week for an historic Free
Trade Agreement (FTA) between the US and Jordan...We are all very enthusiastic,"
Eizenstat told businesspeople and officials during a visit to an industrial zone set up
under an agreement to help encourage Israeli-Jordanian cooperation.
The Irbid park, a so-called Qualifying Industrial Zone (QIZ), was the
first of five parks designated in 1997 as a QIZ where products enjoy duty-free status on
the US market if they meet a minimum Israeli content. The parks are a centerpiece of
US-Israeli-Jordanian efforts to deliver an elusive peace dividend to disenchanted
The zones have attracted global multinationals seeking duty free access
to US markets.
"Today there are five QIZs in Jordan which by our estimate employ
5,000 Jordanians. That is what the economic dimension of the peace process is all
about," Eizenstat said during a tour of plants that produce garments and suitcases to
the US market.
Eizenstat also said he would urge Israel on Tuesday to facilitate a
"quantum" rise in Jordanian exports to Palestinian self-rule areas to address
business complaints that Israel was keeping the lucrative market as a monopoly for its
The senior US official met King Abdullah and commended him on his push
to modernize Jordan's tribally structured society, saying Washington supported his drive
to accelerate privatization and lure foreign investors to generate jobs.
Lebanon raises $500 mln
Lebanon has raised 500 million dollars from a five-year Eurobond issue,
with local banks the main contributors, Finance Minister Georges Corm was quoted as saying
in press reports Thursday.
Corm said the loan was originally set at 400 million dollars but was 25
per cent ovsersubscribed.
However he admitted that only 30 per cent of the 99.89 dollar bonds
were taken up abroad, including 10 per cent in Europe, five per cent by US pension funds
and the rest in the Gulf. The Greek national bank was a subscriber for the first time,
The aim of the issue, which carries interest of 9 3/8 per cent, is to
spread more of Lebanon's public debt of 22 billion dollars overseas.
US sees economic window for Palestinians
The Palestinians should gear their economy now to reap benefits of a
potential peace dividend should a final agreement with Israel be reached, US Deputy
Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat said on Wednesday.
"If there is a peace agreement, there'll be a very narrow window
of opportunity when there'll be worldwide attention focused on the Palestinians and the
effort to get them started in a positive way," Eizenstat told Reuters in an
Israel and the Palestinians are attempting to seal a final peace deal
Eizenstat was in Jerusalem during a two day visit to Israel and the
Eizenstat said it was "critically important" that
Palestinians move forward with economic reforms "so that investors will have
confidence that they can come in".
Necessary measures include setting up a commercial infrastructure and
privatisation strategy for Palestinian industries, shrinking a bloated public sector and
developing a more independent judiciary, he said.
Albright fails to bridge Israeli-Palestinian gaps
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told Albright the only way to secure
progress ahead of a mid-September deadline for a final peace accord with the Palestinians
was through a summit meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Clinton.
"Until now we have no agreement. The substantial negotiations will
begin only if and when there will be a summit meeting," Barak told reporters after
meeting Albright, who earlier held talks with Arafat and her Israeli counterpart David
Only hours earlier, Arafat rejected a US suggestion for a mid-July
three-way summit, stressing to Albright that more negotiations were needed first. He did,
though, leave the door open for a bridging summit to take place later in July.
At the same time, both sides said they would leave the decision on a
summit up to Clinton and would respect his decision which is to be made after he hears a
full report from Albright.
Iran launches first offshore bunkering service
Iran has launched its first offshore bunkering service at an anchorage
south of the Qeshm island free trade zone in the Gulf, a Qeshm official said on Monday.
Singapore-based Global Energy provides the services in cooperation with
the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and National Iranian Oil Company
Ahmad Hakim, a senior official in Qeshm, told Reuters that the floating
anchorage, set up nine miles (15 kilometers) southwest of Qeshm, had begun its services
earlier this month, having already fuelled several international tankers.
WB lends Tunisia $200 mln
The World Bank granted Tunisia two loans worth $200 to finance water
projects and an education system upgrading programme, the bank said. The loan for water
projects is $101 million while the one for the education improvement scheme is worth $99
million, it said in a statement received on Thursday.
UASC net slips
The Arab world's largest shipping firm, United Arab Shipping Co (UASC),
said on Thursday its net profit slipped by $7 million in 1999 to $20.18 million.
Credit for Palestinian
The World Bank said Wednesday it had approved a 7.5 million dollar
credit for the Palestinian Authority to improve roads, water distribution and sewage
services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
FIB merger complete
Faysal Islamic Bank of Bahrain (FIB) said on Sunday it had completed
its merger with Islamic Investment Company of the Gulf (IICG), creating a $230 million
Syria opens door
Syria is preparing to allow foreign banks into the country, if only in
free-trade zones to begin with, the official daily Ath-Thawra reported Monday. Hailing the
measure as "a great step forward in the attraction of capital", the paper said
that since the weekend authorities in the free zones had begun receiving applications to
set up banks.
Thuraya with Iran
Abu Dhabi-based Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co on Tuesday
signed a service provider agreement with Iran's national telecommunications company, the
"Our partnership with TCI (Telecommunications Company of Iran),
the national telecom provider of Iran, would enhance our presence in the local market
through their expertise and support, while also reinforcing our commercial base at the
regional level," Thuraya's Chairman Mohammad Omran said after he inked the deal in
Syria accepts World Bank aid
Syria has accepted an offer of advice from the World Bank on how to
attract investments to the country, the government daily Tishrin reported Tuesday.
"The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation a
World Bank affiliate which assists the private sector have said they are prepared
to produce studies on all aspects relating to support for investments in Syria," the
Telecom, oil firm sales
Egypt's prime minister has said the government will announce next week
offers in Telecom Egypt, oil distribution firms and remaining state stakes in privatised
firms, cabinet sources said.
"We agreed on activating the capital market through more public
awareness of the market and (through) the privatisation programme," Atef Obeid told
reporters late on Monday following a ministerial economic committee meeting.
Syria seeks $161 mln
Syria is seeking to borrow a total of 161 million dollars from Japan
and the Islamic Development Bank to finance port expansion and the acquisition of merchant
ships, Transport Minister Makram Obeid was quoted as saying Tuesday.
A 100 million dollar loan from Japan would pay for developing the ports
of Tartus and Lattaqieh in the northwest of the country, he told the ruling party
Egypt corruption case
Egyptian bankers on Monday welcomed the outcome of a loan scam trial in
which four members of parliament were among 31 people convicted, but voiced concern that
it might deter bank lending and worsen a liquidity crisis.
"It's positive in the sense that it's the first ever case to
indict top-level management in banks and it is also a warning to other corrupt
bankers," corporate banker Khaled Abdel-Kader of Egyptian British Bank (EBB) told
"But the case will affect the market and banks' reputation,"
he said. "It gives a misleading impression to people outside that corruption is high
in Egypt." A state security court wound up a 37-month trial on Sunday by convicting
and sentencing 31 bankers, businessmen and MPs accused of using five banks to extend or
receive unsecured loans worth a total of 1.6 billion pounds ($500 million).
WB grants Lebanon
The World Bank Tuesday said it granted Lebanon an 80-million-dollar
loan to finance infrastructure projects in Lebanese municipalities. The accord was signed
by World Bank country director for Lebanon, Padmanabharao Hari Prasad, and the Lebanese
interior and municipal affairs minister, Michel Murr.
He said about 12 million dollars of the loan will be available for
towns in the south of the country.
Gas deposits discovered
British Gas has discovered two deposits of natural gas off the coast of
the Gaza Strip that should be sufficient not only to supply the needs of Palestinians but
permit a small amount for export, a Palestinian official told Tuesday. "British Gas,
which has been prospecting off Gaza for five months, has informed me of the discovery of
two gas deposits," said Abdelrahman Hamad, chairman of the Palestinian energy
Cell C defends phone bid win
A Saudi-backed consortium named the preferred bidder for South Africa's
third mobile phone licence on Wednesday defended its business plan as sound and declared
itself ready to run the network.
Cell C, which is backed by Saudi Arabian conglomerate Saudi Oger, said
the delay in naming the licence winner threatened to harm South Africa's standing in the
eyes of foreign investors.
Emad Baban, Saudi Oger's vice-president, said his conglomerate was
committed to Cell C's success if it was awarded the licence valued at $200 million
(29.45 billion rand).
AIG as investment advisor
The Yarmouk University Investment Fund (YIF) has chosen Atlas
Investment Group (AIG) as its Investment Management Advisor.
YIF signed, on Tuesday June 27th, an investment management and advisory
agreement with AIG to manage the Fund's securities portfolio and advise on its structure
and asset allocation.