Sep 11 -
gets S. Arabian support
US President Bill Clinton said on Thursday that
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah had assured him of supporting a
rise in oil output to bring down soaring prices.
Clinton, speaking to journalists on the fringes of
the UN Millennium Summit, said Prince Abdullah agreed that high oil
prices could spark a recession. "I told him I was very concerned
that the price of oil was too high, not just for America, but for the
world," said Clinton.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, too, implicitly
favoured a hike in production. "In principle, we are not against
the output rise in proportion to the rise of the world demand,"
Khatami said at a press conference on Thursday. He said increased
demand was expected over the next three months.
About his talks with Prince Abdullah, Clinton said
he told the Saudi prince "that if it's a cause of recession in
any part of the world, that would hurt the oil producing countries. He
agreed with that. He's been very strong about that."
Clinton said he hoped that members of the
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), who meet in
Vienna on Sunday, would raise output to stem price hikes, as they had
agreed during their last ministerial meeting in March. "I said I
certainly hoped that when OPEC met there would be an increase in
production because that was the policy they adopted," Clinton
said. "They adopted a policy that said if the price got outside a
range, as I remember the range, it was 22-28 dollars a barrel, and
they would take appropriate action. So I hope that they will."
The OPEC ministerial meeting in Vienna will discuss
price rises amid indications that oil ministers would agree to a rise
Iran hopes its new moderate image will help tourism
Iran hopes its improving image abroad will help
lift its depressed tourism industry, but many fear Islamic social
restrictions could keep foreigners away.
"The bitter truth is that our negative image,
created by negative propaganda, has been a fatal poison for our
tourism industry since the revolution," says Iran's chief tourism
official Mohammed Moezzeddin.
"We want to improve this image and President
(Mohammed) Khatami's open-door and detente policy is the main key to
this goal," he told journalists this week.
Intense anti-West feelings and the bloody 1980s war
against Iraq scared away many foreigners. Some of the best relics of
pagan and Islamic tradition in the historic cities of Shiraz and
Isfahan were left as neglected ruins.
Tourism collapsed and the new rulers, wary of the
cultural drawbacks of the industry, ignored it for almost a decade.
The idea to revive tourism resurfaced after the
war, when Iran needed hard cash to rebuild, and it is still seen as an
alternative source of foreign currency to oil exports.
Khatami's limited social liberalisation and foreign
policy overtures have been of some help to the tourist industry. More
people are travelling to Iran, but visitors are largely limited to
Muslims and small groups of ageing Westerners, usually on tours.
Officials say about 1.7 million tourists visit Iran
a year, spending up to $800 million. Iran hopes the number of foreign
visitors will more than double in five years' time.
In a country where vital economic interests often
clash with deep-seated moral values, tourism officials are struggling
to highlight Iran's natural and historical advantages against
religious controls in hopes of enticing tourists.
Oil blasts off as consumers rage
Booming oil markets poured fresh riches into OPEC
coffers on Thursday amid consumer rage in the West over high fuel
costs and fears of a winter supply crunch.
Prices at 10-year peaks proved immune to news of a
rise in US oil inventories and brushed off word from OPEC sources that
all options were open at a key policy-making meeting on Sunday.
"This continues to be a market which is only
going in one direction," said Lawrence Eagles of London brokers
Brent crude rose 0.6 percent to trade up 22 cents
at $34.50 a barrel, its highest since the crisis over Iraq's 1990
invasion of Kuwait, before settling back to $34.20, off eight cents.
The rise was the fourth straight day of 10-year
peaks on North Sea Brent, a benchmark grade used for pricing a swathe
of international trade in raw material crude oil.
Clinton's talks with Arafat, Barak fail to bridge
US and Israeli officials expressed pessimism on
Thursday after President Bill Clinton failed to bridge gaps between
Israel and the Palestinians in a last-ditch effort to break the
impasse in the Middle East peace talks.
"(Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat's position
didn't change, he did not budge an inch and (Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud) Barak feels he cannot go any further and time is running
out," a senior Israeli official said.
The official spoke after US Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright briefed Mr Barak on the status of the talks.
Another senior Israeli official described the
situation after Albright's meeting with Barak as "dire".
"The situation is very bad, sad - it's dire. There are no signs
of progress whatsoever and there is little hope of breaking the
deadlock," the official said.
The official said Barak would give the process
"two more weeks", and then turn to internal matters.
Kuwait finds gas in north
Gas-hungry Kuwait has found natural gas in two
northern fields but has yet to assess the actual size of the reserves,
an official source said on Tuesday.
The source told Reuters Kuwait made the natural gas
finds in Raudhatain and Sabiriyah fields close to the nothern border
with former occupier Iraq.
Kuwait is currently studying the purchase of
natural gas from neighbours Qatar and non-Arab Iran, which sit on the
world's largest reserves after Russia, mainly to meet domestic demand
for power generation.
Experts say Kuwait's need for gas could reach a
critical level later this decade, highlighting its keeness to tap
large reserves in al-Dorra offshore gas field in the Gulf which is
claimed by OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kuwait.
OPEC seen 'powerless' as oil soars
Oil prices raced to yet another 10-year peak on
Wednesday as anxious dealers feared OPEC would fail to ease a supply
shortage when its ministers meet on Sunday.
US light crude futures were up 30 cents at $34.13.
High fuel costs are rattling the United States and
other major crude consumers who are crying out for more oil.
But OPEC states which supply the bulk of
internationally traded petroleum say tight supplies of refined
products like heating oil are keeping prices up rather than any severe
shortage of raw material crude.
OPEC powerhouse Saudi Arabia tried to spell out
that reality to a nervous market on Tuesday.
Influential Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said
the world's biggest oil exporter sees no problem in adding extra crude
to world supply even though markets are not as tight as current record
Old guard survives
King Mohammed VI of Morocco on Wednesday reshuffled
the government he inherited a year ago on the death of his father,
trimming it down from 42 to 33 members but keeping the old guard.
Socialist Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi
remains in post, with 27 ministers and six junior ministers.
Hopes that the young king would reshuffle the
government have been running high during recent months, with several
newspapers saying the ruling executive needed "a second
wind" to be able to tackle the country's economic crisis.
Saudi investors plan to build a tourist resort,
including a five-star hotel, in Bahrain at an estimated cost of
between $75-$100 million, Bahrain's Finance and National Economy
Ministry said on Wednesday.
It said in a statement that the ministry signed an
agreement on Wednesday leasing a plot of land to the investors to
build the resort near the capital Manama.
Kuwait's stock market rose 1.7 per cent in the week
to Wednesday, erasing most of the year's decline with a 7.3 per cent
gain in three weeks.
Some brokers expect the upward trend to continue,
possibly moving the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE) into positive
territory above last year's 1,442-point close.
KPC net profit
Kuwait's state oil firm KPC enjoyed a leap in net
profit to about $2.6 billion in the fiscal year to June — some $778
million above projections — amid rallying energy markets.
Libya seeks investment
Libya has invited international oil companies to
take part in joint ventures to upgrade and expand its refining and
petrochemical industries, the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES)
reported on Monday. The authoritative industry newsletter said Libya's
National Oil Corporation (NOC) is seeking bidding from a selected
number of companies on joint ventures to build a new refinery at Sebha
and to upgrade refineries at Ras Lanuf and Azzawiya.
Iran issues tenders for new Gulf gas blocks
Iran has called for tenders to develop the latest
phases of the giant South Pars gas field in the Gulf, press reports
said Sunday, quoting the National Iranian Oil Company.
The two tenders cover phases nine and 10, and 11
and 12, with projected total daily output of 105 million cubic metres
(3.675 billion cubic feet) of gas and 160,000 barrels of crude oil.
The NIOC said bidders for the buy-back type
contracts could be individual firms or consortia.
The first three phases of South Pars have already
started production, while Italy's ENI has won a contract to develop
phases four and five estimated at 3.8 billion dollars.
Phases six to eight are in the hands of the
British-registered Iranian company Petro-Pars, whose boss Mansur
Rezvani said recently that foreign firms could be associated with the
Morocco raises oil products
Morocco rised the price of refined oil products by
up to 10.8 per cent due mainly to a surge of crude oil prices on the
international market, the official MAP agency said on Saturday.
Morocco, which has no oil of its own, is expected
to import this year more than seven million tonnes of crude oil,
mainly from the Gulf countries at the cost of $1.4 billion.
Jordan ministers in Baghdad
Iraqi Trade Minister Mohamed Mahdi Saleh welcomed
two Jordanian ministers who arrived here Monday for a visit of several
days to discuss ways on increasing Jordan's exports to Iraq.
"Economic cooperation between Iraq and Jordan
is important and exchanges between the two countries has reached 1.4
billion dollars in the context of the 'oil for food' programme,"
Jordanian Trade Minister Wassef Azar and Transport
Minister Mohammed Al-Kalaldeh will also look at ways to increase Iraqi
imports via the Red Sea port of Aqaba, a Jordanian official earlier
said in Amman.
Oman has started building the first phase of a $150
million tourist village in the southern coastal town of Mirbat to
attract more holidaymakers to the Gulf Arab state, a project official
said on Monday.
Oman private power plant
Oman's fourth private power project planned to be
built in the coastal town of Barka would cost around 175 million rials
($455 million), the official Oman News Agency (ONA) said on Tuesday.
It said the 400-megawatt Barka power project would include a 20
million gallon water desalination plant.
Lebanese pound stabilizes
The sweeping weekend electoral victory of
billionaire former prime minister Rafiq Hariri helped to stabilize the
Lebanese pound Monday, an economist said.
At the same time, Solidere, the giant real-estate
firm in which Hariri is one of the major shareholders, shot higher on
the stock market.
The Lebanese pound, which trades in a fixed range
of 1,502-1,514 to the dollar, appreciated to 1,511 from 1,514 on
The pound had been under strong pressure during the
recent electoral campaign, with the Central Bank of Lebanon having to
intervene several times to keep it within its trading band.
Orascom Telecom's (OT) chairman and CEO Naguib
Sawiris has announced that preparations will soon begin for the
construction of a tourist village in the special economic zone in
Aqaba, Jordan at an estimated cost of $350 million.