Oil surges in U.S. as
OPEC stays tough
Oil prices in the United States were running at nine-year highs with no
sign yet of respite from Opec producers who are keeping a tight rein on exports.
New York Mercantile Exchange light crude futures hit $29.10 a barrel in
early trading the highest oil price since January 1991.
Dealers said the recommendation from a number of Opec ministers last
week that the organisation extend output curbs beyond a scheduled end-March expiry remains
the driving force behind the price rise.
"These countries are openly saying that they want to keep the oil
supply-demand balance tight," said Mike Rothman of Merrill Lynch.
"The Saudis are signalling that they want to defend oil at $25 a
Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi, Opec's most influential policy
maker, said last week that he was content with market conditions and could see no reason
to change production policy for the remainder of 2000.
Other producers have suggested extending current policy to September.
Opec is scheduled to decide policy at a meeting in Vienna on March 27.
Added impetus for prices came from a severe cold spell in the
northeastern United States, the world's largest market for the petroleum product. Nymex
heating oil has jumped 13 cents a gallon in just eight days to reach 77.65 cents.
Opec's agreement of March 1999 removing 4.3 million barrels a day from
the 75 million bpd world market has already left world petroleum inventories previously
close to historic lows.
The American Petroleum Institute said that U.S. crude stocks fell
nearly 13 per cent during 1999 to end the year at the 30-year low set at end-1996.
JTC finalises deal with French firm
Jordan will sign a $508 million deal to sell 40 per cent of its
flagship telecoms firm to a consortium led by France Telecom in its boldest privatization
move so far, investment bankers said. The deal to sell the stake in Jordan
Telecommunications Co (JTC) will be signed at a ceremony attended by the French firm's
chairman Michel Bon the bankers close to the deaf said.
Syria okayed Israeli demands
Syria agreed in past peace talks with Israel to most demands made by
the Jewish state to normalise relations between the two sides, according to Uri Saguy,
Israel's chief negotiator in peace talks with Syria.
The claims in an academic paper made public on Thursday --
contradict Syrian assertions Israel must agree to give up all of the Golan Heights
captured in battle 33 years ago, before there can be any discussion of normal relations.
Interbank rate drops to 11 pct
The median overnight interbank rate on Egypt's pound slipped to 11
percent on Thursday, the end of the business week, from Wednesday's 16 percent in a very
liquid market, bankers said.
Overnight rates were in a wide range of eight to 14 percent compared
with 15 to 17 percent on Wednesday.
One-week rates ranged between 11 and 16 percent from Wednesday's 15 and
Sudan ups state salaries
Sudan's government has increased the salaries of state workers by at
least 27 percent to keep pace with rising petrol and food prices, a newspaper reported on
President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir has issued a decree to raise the
minimum state pay to 20,000 Sudanese pounds ($8) a month with effect from January 1, the
independent Al-Usbua said.
Labour unions had complained about a 16 percent rise in petrol prices
on January 11. Food prices have risen sharply since the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan
ended on January 7.
The government has said it aims to reduce inflation to nine percent by
the end of 2000 from an official rate of 13 percent last September.
Qatar bourse to open to foreign investment
Qatar's stock exchange will be opened up to foreign investors this year
in a bid to improve liquidity, its director was quoted as saying Thursday by a newspaper
in the United Arab Emirates.
The market would be opened up "during the first quarter" to
direct investment from other Gulf Arab states, Hussein Abdullah said in an interview with
the Al-Ittihad daily.
Other foreigners would be allowed to invest "during the second
quarter", but only indirectly through investment funds whose creation is still being
studied, he added.
Bahrain plans to privatise its meat industry and set up a two million
dinar ($5.3 million) joint firm to take over government activities in the import of
livestock, a local newspaper said on Thursday.
The Gulf Daily News quoted Commerce Minister Ali Saleh Al-Saleh as
saying the shareholding of the Bahrain Live Animal Company would be held equally by the
government and three trading firms.
Israel stockpiled medical specimens from Arab leaders
Israeli intelligence services have secretly stockpiled medical
information about the Arab leaders. An Israeli newspaper reported that the Mossad and
other Israeli intelligence organisations had obtained the results of medical tests
conducted on several Arab leaders, including heads of states considered hostile to Israel.
These leaders had undergone medical treatments. The newspaper said the
Mossad's medical bank even includes a urine sample clandestinely taken from Syrian
President Hafez Al-Assad.
Detailed information about the health of Palestinian leader Yasser
Arafat indicated that while he is not healthy, there is no immediate risk to his life,
Israel is currently engaged in a peace process with both Syria and the
Iran, Turkey discuss "threat" of Israeli planes
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi had talks on Monday with
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and a Turkish official said they discussed Turkey's
growing ties with Israel which are causing concern in Tehran.
Ecevit also raised Turkey's long-standing accusations that Tehran
tacitly backs Turkish Kurd rebels fighting a 15-year-old armed campaign in southeast
Turkey, the official said.
Further details of the talks between the two most populous states in
the region were not immediately available, but Iranian state radio said Tehran was
concerned about possible attacks by Israeli warplanes which train in Turkey and fly close
to Iran's borders.
Khatami, Castro, to exchange visits
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami will go to Cuba in April and Cuban
leader Fidel Castro will make a return visit to Iran later this year, according to
Havana's ambassador to Tehran, Dario Urra Torriente.
Khatami will attend a meeting of the Group of 77 developing countries
taking place in Havana, Torriente said in an interview published Sunday in the
conservative daily Teheran Times.
The two visits would be the first by either head of state to the
other's country, though former Iranian president Ali Khamenei, now Iran's supreme
spiritual leader, met Castro at the Non-Aligned summit in Zimbabwe in 1986.
Iran welcomes Saudi direct mining and metals investment
Iranian Minister for Mines and Metals Eshagh Jahangiri said Wednesday
his country welcomed direct investment from Saudi Arabia in the mining sector, the
official IRNA agency reported.
The Iranian minister made the statement during a meeting with Saudi
Trade Minister Ossama bin Jaafar bin Ibrahim Faqih, who started a visit to Tehran.
The Saudi minister said that the joint economic commission must
identify joint objectives in order to boost trade.
The two oil exporting countries recently expressed their political will
to "reinforce economic and trade cooperation," particularly as part of a joint
Iran and Saudi Arabia have 12 joint projects, worth an estimated total
280 million dollars, of which the Saudis hold 77.29 percent and Iran 12.82 percent.
Tehran has decided to open its mining and metals sector, which is the
most significant after oil, to direct foreign investment.
Oman Sohar port project
Oman's planned 96 million rial ($250 million) port project in the
northern city of Sohar will cost around 40 percent less than expected when it was
announced last year, a project official said on Tuesday.
Kuwaiti stocks crash
The Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE) dipped another seven points to close
the week Wednesday at its lowest point for almost four years, as weak trade sentiment
continued to depress investor confidence.
The KSE index closed at 1,388.0 points, down 0.4 percent from its 1999
record low and a staggering 51.1 percent from its peak just over two years ago.
Saudi businessmen to form investment firm
A group of leading Saudi Arabian businessmen are setting up a company
to invest in foreign countries and buy Saudi government stakes in some foreign joint
ventures, the founders said on Monday.
Founding members of the company, who did not want to be named, told
Reuters discussions among the more than 20 leading businessmen had so far agreed on an
initial paid-up capital of 100 million riyals ($26.7 million).
Suggestions by some businessmen that they raise the total to one
billion riyals had not yet been agreed on, they said.
Kuwait seizes two ships
Kuwait's coast guard has seized two ships en route from Iraq for
alleged sanctions-busting, the interior ministry. The coast guard "has seized two
wooden ships coming from Iraq in violation of the economic embargo, one of them flying the
Indian flag and the other the flag of Honduras," it said, quoted by the official KUNA
Bahrain, Sudan sign cooperation accords
Bahrain and Sudan on Saturday signed a series of agreements, mostly
trade-related, on the first day of a visit here by Sudanese President Omar Al-Beshir, the
official GNA news agency said.
The first accord establishes a joint cooperation committee, charged
with developing bilateral cooperation in the fields of economics, trade, culture, science
Another agreement covers the encouragement and protection of
investments. The third is a double taxation accord.
Algerian denies US immigration charges in Seattle
An Algerian-born man reported to have connections with key figures in
an apparent plot to smuggle bomb-making materials into the United States, pleaded not
guilty to immigration charges on Thursday.
A federal grand jury last week indicted Abdel Tizegha, 29, on two
counts of allegedly entering the United States illegally from Canada, where he had
apparently gone to live after being denied political asylum by U.S. authorities.
Jordan economy: peace has yet to deliver
Lebanese and Syrians are eagerly awaiting the economic boost they are
convinced will come with peace. But in Jordan, many have realised that the 1994 peace
treaty has not brought much hope and is even being countered by a campaign against
normalisation with Israel.
In a lecture delivered in the United States last October, Jordan's
deputy prime minister and minister of planning Rima Khalaf pointed out that Jordan's
economy was doing better before the peace treaty and since 1994, the country's gross
domestic product (gdp) had fallen from 10 percent to 1.5 percent.
Khalaf seems to imply, almost directly, that stagnation of Jordan's
economy is a direct consequence of the absence of peace dividends.
"Exports to Israel and Palestinian territories, anticipated to
reach 400 million US dollars by 1999, came up to a mere 58 million dollars, because of
tariff barriers erected by Israel, (which is) also impeding flow of goods and transfer of
technology to Jordan," said Khalaf.
"The anti-normalisation movement in Jordan, which did not exist in
1994, is a direct consequence of the absence of qualitative peace," she added,
referring to the campaign that was launched by the National Conference to Fight
Normalisation (NCFN), created in 1995."
The difference in peace with Israel for Jordan and Syria is that Hafez
Al Assad will probably ask for a much higher price to put his signature on a treaty with
Israel than the late King Hussein of Jordan did.
Jordan had some of its debt to the US erased, it received foreign aid
and Washington increased its annual aid from 9 million dollars to 225 million dollars.
Saudi, Iran plan to strengthen trade
Saudi Commerce Minister Ossama bin Jaafar bin Ibrahim Faqih will travel
to Tehran Monday for two days of meetings on boosting bilateral trade and cooperation, the
official SPA news agency said.
The minister will lead a delegation of businessmen to the meetings of
the joint Saudi-Iranian committee Tuesday and Wednesday.
During the committee's meeting in Riyadh in December, the two countries
agreed to encourage investment in joint projects, increase trade and hold reciprocal
Saudi-Iranian ties, cool since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, improved
after Iran's reformist President Mohammed Khatami was elected in 1997.