Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said on Wednesday the
Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is reassessing its plan to formally
declare the independence of the Palestinian state on Sept 13.
Arafat said a decision on whether to declare the state of
Palestine would be taken only at "the beginning of next month" in a
move likely to ease pressure on a newly declared resumption of peace talks with
"We have decided the course, but we have to reassess
this," Arafat told journalists after meeting Indonesian leader Abdurrahman
Wahid at the presidential palace.
"I made long tour all over the world and I have
(received) many advices from many international leaders (that the declaration of
a Palestinian state should be made) after the Israeli election," he said.
Israel has said the election could be held as early as the
spring of 2001.
Earlier, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid refused to
lend support to the declaration of an independent Palestinian state in his talks
Asked if Indonesia would support a unilateral declaration,
Wahid said, "No. We will be deciding (abiding) by the decision of the
(Organization of) the Islamic Conference and the United Nations
Arafat said the reassessment would be conducted by the
central council, the Palestinians' second-highest decision making body.
Palestinian officials have said the council is to meet next
Arafat had earlier said he would proclaim the state on Sept
13, but since the Camp David summit broke down on July 25, he has been
increasingly vague about whether he will stick to the deadline in the face of
strong US and Israeli pressure.
Khamenei rules out improvement in ties with US
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday
again ruled out reopening ties with the United States, the official IRNA news
Khamenei blasted Washington's efforts to secure a Middle East
peace deal, which has long been opposed by Tehran, and said the United States
was trying to impose its will on the region.
"The true objective of US propositions during their
negotiations is to impose their will," Khamenei said, calling on the
diplomats to remain "vigilant and attentive towards Iran's relations with
He told the diplomats they should develop relations with Asia
and other Muslim nations and "resist both the Zionist regime and US support
for this regime". They must also "present Iran's point of view on the
issue of Palestine", Khamenei said, cited by IRNA.
Iran, which has not recognized Israel since the 1979
revolution, is opposed to the US-led peace process and expressed delight when
the Camp David peace talks failed last month.
OPEC chief says no plans for output hike
OPEC President Ali Rodriguez of Venezuela said on Wednesday
that the oil cartel had no plans to increase production yet, despite sizzling
oil prices, insisting that the group would stick with its price band mechanism.
Under the $22-28 a barrel price target mechanism approved in
March, OPEC should raise or lower output by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) if
prices remain above the band for 20 consecutive days or below the band for 10
Asked if OPEC was planning a 500,000 bpd output increase at
the moment, Rodriguez said: "It's not planned. Of course if the conditions
which were established (in the band mechanism) occur, then it (a production
increase) will happen." The price of OPEC's basket of seven crudes stood at
$28.69 a barrel Tuesday, keeping it above the cartel's price band for a second
Brent crude rises to near 10-year high
The price of benchmark Brent crude oil for September delivery
rose to well above 32 dollars a barrel, the highest level for nearly 10 years,
in trading here on Tuesday.
The price of benchmark Brent crude for September delivery was
showing a gain of 77 cents from the closing price on Monday to 32.25 dollars a
In New York on Monday, light sweet crude for September
delivery had closed with a gain of 92 cents to 31.94 dollars a barrel.
Venezuela's Chavez reaches Libya
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived in Tripoli on Sunday
for talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on an OPEC summit planned for next
month in the Venezuelan capital Caracas.
"The president arrived this morning and he will leave in
this afternoon after meeting Gaddafi. The two leaders did not meet yet," an
official at the Venezuelan embassy in Tripoli said by telephone.
Chavez, who came from Jakarta where he met Indonesian
President Abdurrahman Wahid, is touring all fellow OPEC states to promote the
cartel's first summit in 25 years in Caracas on September 27-29 and to discuss
OPEC production levels amid bullish oil prices.
Private radio, television
Jordan's House of Representatives has approved the opening of
private radio and television stations in the kingdom, ending the state's
monopoly, a source in the parliament said Thursday.
In a session late Wednesday, the parliament voted to allow
the government to authorize Jordanian or foreign companies to open TV or radio
stations in the kingdom so long as they "respect the objectives and values
of the Jordanian state." The measure annulled the monopoly rights given to
state television and radio.
Suez Canal to be enlarged
The Egyptian government has given the go-ahead for work to
widen and deepen the Suez Canel to permit the passage of supertankers, a
spokesman for the canal authority said Thursday.
The 441 million-dollar project will allow the use of 200,000
tonne ships of 62-foot (20.5 meter) draft next year, compared with 60 feet now,
spokesman Hassan Refaat told.
The expansion work will increase the width of the Suez Canel
from 345 to 400 meters (380 to 440 yards) and its depth from 22 to 25 meters (72
feet to 82 feet), bringing in enough water to permit the passage of 92 percent
of existing commercial ships, Refaat said.
Fitch IBCA rating agency on Thursday affirmed its stable
outlook rating for Kuwait on the back of high crude prices and the emirate's
considerable returns from its extensive foreign assets.
The London-based ratings agency also affirmed short- and
long-term foreign currency ratings for Kuwait at "F1" and
"A" respectively. Fitch's top short-term currency rating is
"F1," while its best long-term currency rating is "AAA."
"The Kuwaiti economy is benefiting from high world (oil) prices and the
July increase in its OPEC quota to 2.037 million barrels per day. The current
account surplus is forecast to double in 2000," the agency said in a
Jordan, Syria to discuss economic ties
Jordan's Prime Minister Ali Abu Al-Ragheb left for Syria on
Thursday for top level talks on ways of expanding economic ties amid improved
political ties, officials said.
They said Abu Al-Ragheb would attend a two-day meeting of the
Jordanian-Syrian Higher Committee, the umbrella forum that reviews progress in a
wide span of fields.
Jordan's ties with Syria have improved dramatically since
relations soured after the late King Hussein signed a peace deal with Israel in
1994 which Damascus saw as a sellout.
They started to improve again when the late Syrian president,
Hafez Al-Assad, attended King Hussein's funeral in Amman in February 1999 and
began to develop a good relationship with his son and heir, King Abdullah.
Lebanon BoP deficit
Lebanon's balance of payments recorded a $144.9 million
deficit during the first half of the year, compared to a deficit of $149.3
million in the same 1999 period, the central bank said on Wednesday. It said the
deficit for the month of June alone was $114.4 million. In May, the balance of
payments was $80.2 million in surplus.
Bahrain trade surplus
Bahrain's trade surplus for the first six months of 2000 hit
a 10-year high of almost 600 million dollars on the back of a doubling in oil
export earnings, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
The six-monthly surplus of 225 million dinars (590 million
dollars) was up 19.7 percent from 188 million dinars (493 million dollars) in
the same period of 1999, the Gulf Daily News said, quoting a central bank
The increase was propped up by a doubling in the value of oil
exports to 697 million dinars (1.8 billion dollars) in the first half of this
year from 358.2 million dinars (943 million dollars).
The Gulf archipelago's non-oil exports also increased, up 10
percent at 306.5 million dinars (803 million dollars) from 278.4 million dinars
(729 million dollars).
Iran discovers new major gas field
Iran said on Sunday it had discovered a new on-shore gas
field with recoverable reserves of 4.7 trillion cubic feet (133.1 billion cubic
metres) of sweet gas and 58 million barrels of liquid gas.
The new field, called Homa, is located in a mountainous
region south of Fars province, said Mohammad Mohaddes, director of exploration
at the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).
Homa borders Tabnak, Iran's largest onshore sweet gas field
with estimated reserves of 445 billion cubic metres (15.7 trillion cubic feet),
and two other fields — Shanoul and Varavi, he said.
"Given that this gas is sweet, it does not require
refining and the gas can be injected into the national network after its liquid
gas is extracted," Mohaddes told state radio.
Syria sees growth
Syria is expecting its decision to allow foreign banks
operate in free trade zones for the first time in decades to accelerate growth
there, the director of the project said on Sunday.
Ghatfan Refai, director of Syria's General Organisation for
Free Zones (GOFZ), told Reuters three Lebanese banks had been given licences
while five other banks with mixed Lebanese-foreign ownership had already applied
for licences from GOFZ.
Microsoft breaks ground
Microsoft GEM (Gulf and Eastern Mediterranean) has officially
marked the start of construction work on its regional headquarters at Dubai
Internet City (DIC), according to a press release. The global market leader is
expected to move its regional operations to the new purpose-built location in
Bahrain-based Arab Insurance Group, the Arab world's biggest
reinsurer, said on Tuesday it made a net loss of $15.6 million in the first half
of 2000 compared with a $4.7 million net profit a year earlier.
Saudi Arabia's industrial giant Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC)
said on Monday it planned to expand ammonia production capacity at its affiliate
National Chemical Fertiliser Company (Ibn Al-Baytar). A SABIC statement said it
would raise Ibn Al-Baytar output to 583,000 tonnes per year (tpy) of ammonia
from the current 500,000 tpy.
Oil prices could rise to 40 dollars a barrel in New York by
the end of this year, analysts said on Wednesday, as price levels remained
around 10-year-high levels here.
The chief economist at the Centre for Global Energy Studies
Leo Drollas said prices could rise to 40 dollars a barrel in New York and 35
dollars in London by the end of this year — but only if the Organisation of
Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) did not agree an output increase at its
ministerial conference in Vienna on September 10.
Aramco orders four supertankers
Saudi Arabia's national oil giant Saudi Aramco has ordered
four supertankers from the South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., the
official SPA news agency reported Wednesday.
Each of the four super tankers will have a capacity of
300,000 tonnes and be able to transport two million barrels of crude oil with a
range as far as the Americas, Europe and the Far East, the agency said, without
disclosing the value of the order.
The tankers, which will be delivered in 2002 and 2003, will
replace four tankers to be taken out of service.