Nov 20 -
Muslim states asked to snap ties with Israel
The world's Muslim leaders on Monday
"invited" Islamic countries to break ties with Israel and
expressed their "total confidence" in the Palestinian
leadership, in a final declaration at a summit in Doha.
Leaders of the 56-member Organization of the
Islamic Conference (OIC) "invite member states that have
relations with Israel or that have taken measures toward the
establishment of such relations as part of the peace process to break
OIC Secretary General Ezzedin Laraki said the
"document on the Al-Aqsa intifada (uprising) and the independence
of Palestine" had been approved and awaited only the formal
signing by the members.
The Muslim leaders, in the statement, also
"express their total confidence in the Palestinian people and
their PLO leadership" and hail the uprising against Israel that
has cost 217 lives, most of them Arab, over the past six weeks.
Delegates said the term "requests" for
the cut in ties was watered down to "invites" at the
insistence of African member countries, several of which have ties
with the Jewish state.
In another wrangle over wording, Palestinian leader
Yasser Arafat's name was dropped from the voice of confidence in the
leadership of the Palestinians at Syria's urging, the delegates said.
Damascus was a fierce opponent of the 1993
Palestinian autonomy accords, accusing Arafat of breaking ranks by
making a separate peace with Israel.
Speaking at a special session devoted to the
intifada on the opening day of the OIC summit, Iraq's
second-in-command Ezzat Ibrahim joined the call for a break with
"The minimum expected of us ... is to put a
halt to any relations with the Zionist enemy," said Ibrahim,
delivering a message from President Saddam Hussein, who has not
travelled abroad since the 1991 Gulf war.
Oman to diversify economy through gas exploration
Oman aims to step up exploration to boost its
proven gas reserves as a platform for diversifying its economy, Omani
Oil Minister Mohammad bin Hamad Al-Rumhy said on Wednesday.
Rumhy told Reuters training national manpower was a
priority in the Gulf Arab state's efforts to develop new industries.
"The ministry of oil and gas is determined to
increase our proven gas reserve by increasing investments in gas
And with the current gas exploration programme that
targets the addition of one to 1.5 tcf (trillion cubic feet) per year,
we would book more gas than we would consume.
"Oman may not have as substantial reserves in
oil and gas as its neighbours, but it certainly has enough to support
a good platform for oil and gas-based industries," Rumhy said.
The sultanate is a non-OPEC oil producer pumping
850,000 barrels a day. It has proven gas reserves of 22 trillion tcf
and unproven reserves of 45 tcf. In 1999, oil and gas revenues made up
about 70 per cent of state income.
The minister said gas exploration could provide a
platform for planned new industries, which officials have said
included projects worth 2.65 billion rials ($6.88 billion) in the next
10 years to produce aluminium, methanol, urea fertiliser, silicon and
"We are pushing all companies in the oil and
gas sectors to develop their know-how by training their young
workforce so that one day, not far in the future, we will hopefully
create more wealth from this know-how than from our finite natural
resources," Rumhy said.
Foreign workers make up about a quarter of Oman's
population of 2.3 million people.
"However, I am aware that we need to work very
hard to establish this knowledge-based economy that adds value and
offer other value-adding concepts that will make it attractive for
investors both local and international," he said.
European Union calls for Palestinian state
The European Union on Thursday called for the
creation of a "sovereign, democratic Palestinian state ... in the
near future", according to a final statement concluding a Euromed
Concluding a tense two-day meeting of the EU states
and their southern Mediterranean partners, the 15 EU nations voiced
their "support for the Palestinians' right to their own
The said such a sovereign Palestinian state,
"democratic, viable and peaceful," should be created in
"the near future, preferably by negotiation."
Israel must learn to live on an equal footing with
the Arabs and should stop trying to grab land, a top adviser to
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Thursday.
Israel "must realize that it has to live on an
equal footing with the Palestinians insofar as rights and obligations
go," said Osama el-Baz, cited by the official news agency MENA.
US in fresh bid to quell unrest in ME
A Palestinian was killed and an Israeli army patrol
was bombed on Thursday as the United States and Russia, the two chief
sponsors of the Middle East peace process, stepped up diplomatic
efforts to stem the tide of blood washing.
US Middle East troubleshooter Dennis Ross and
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov held talks with the major
players, one day after Israel bombed West Bank targets, including the
offices of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and announced a cutoff in
all funds to the Palestinians.
One more Palestinian was killed on Thursday, an
18-year-old shot in the chest by Israeli soldiers near Al Khalil in
southern West Bank, hospital sources said.
His death brings to 234 the number of Palestinians
killed in seven weeks of intifada.
Libya seeks foreign investments
Libya is looking to local and foreign private
investors to take on a larger role in its $35-billion, five-year
development plan as it continues to liberalise its state-run economy,
government officials said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Mubarak Abdullah Al-Shamikh and
eight other cabinet ministers stressed that Libya was determined to
open up its long-isolated economy to the free market.
The ministers spoke at a government-sponsored
foreign investment conference, the first of its kind in Libya. The
two-day event on Tuesday and Wednesday gathered representatives from
more than 270 foreign companies, mainly from Europe but also from
Japan, Canada and South Africa.
Abu Dhabi launches second hi-tech stock market
The United Arab Emirates launched Wednesday its
second hi-tech financial market, the Abu Dhabi Securities Market (ADSM),
The market, opened in the presence of senior
Emirati officials by Sheikh Sultan al-Nahyan, chairman of Abu Dhabi
Chamber of Commerce, saw only two small trades during its first
The ADSM, which opened last week to allow companies
to register ahead of the official start date, currently has eight
licensed brokers and 13 listed companies, officials said.
It will be linked electronically to the Dubai
Financial Market (DFM), which was launched in March, and form a single
market. Bourse officials gave no time frame for the link-up.
President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahayan issued
a decree in February establishing a stock exchange in the United Arab
Emirates, the last of the oil-rich Gulf states to open a formal
ARIG net loss
Arab Insurance Group (ARIG) said on Wednesday it
made a net loss of $52.6 million in the first nine months of 2000
compared with a net loss of $17.1 million in the same period last
OPEC member Libya expects $10 billion in foreign
investments in oil and gas exploration over the next 10 years, the
acting head of the state oil company said.
National Oil Company (NOC) Acting Chairman Ahmed
Abdel-Karim unveiled details of the long-term plan at a
government-sponsored foreign investment conference, the first of its
kind in Libya.
Abdel-Karim, addressing delegates on Tuesday night,
said NOC was negotiating with several foreign companies and he
expected some oil and gas exploration deals to be signed in the next
Saudi industrial sector grew
Saudi Arabia's industrial sector recorded growth of
5.5 per cent in 1999, while industrial investments totalled more than
60 billion dollars, Saudi Industry Minister Hisham bin Abdullah Al-Yamani
"During 1999, the Saudi industrial sector had
growth of 5.5 per cent ... while investments in industrial projects
totalled 64 billion dollars up to the year 2000," Yamani said in
a statement from the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC).
He said that the value of Saudi industrial
products, mainly petrochemicals, reached 22 billion dollars in 1999,
of which around a quarter represented the kingdom's industrial
"The contribution of the industrial sector to
gross domestic product (GDP) has risen from five per cent in 1980 to
10 per cent in the year 2000 ... and should reach 20 per cent over the
next 20 years," the Saudi minister added.
Kuwait blames West for high fuel prices
Kuwait lashed out at Western oil consuming nations
on Tuesday for high fuel costs and staunchly defended OPEC's efforts
to calm soaraway crude prices.
OPEC had been unfairly blamed for high prices while
consuming nations had been quietly reaping most of the reward through
high taxation, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheikh Saud Nasser Al-Sabah told
an annual oil and gas conference in London.
OPEC agreed on Monday to leave crude oil output
unchanged for the moment.
The group has hiked output by 3.7 million barrels
per day (bpd) so far this year in a bid to calm overheated oil prices
which recently hit 10 year highs.
Iran says Syria repays $500m in debt
Syria has paid $500 million of debt to Iran,
Tehran's finance minister Hossein Namazi was quoted as saying in the
Hayat-e No newspaper on Monday.
Syria owed Iran some one billion dollars dating
back to the 1980s when Tehran sold oil to Damascus on easy credit
terms in return for diplomatic backing in Iran's eight-year war with
In 1998, Iran agreed to write off interest arrears
of $500 million and reschedule another $500 million of debt over 10
The latest repayment appears to have wiped clean
Venezuelan oil minister Ali Rodriguez will take
over as OPEC's new secretary general from January next year, Qatar's
oil minister Abdullah Al-Attiyah said Sunday.
Kuwait oil income soars
Kuwait's earnings from oil in the first four months
of the current fiscal year have hit 6.58 billion dollars, more than
the 6.27 billion dollars projected for the entire year, a think-tank
The OPEC member calculated oil income in the
current 2000/2001 fiscal year at a conservative price of 13 dollars a
barrel, but sold its crude at an average price of 27.63 dollars
between July and October, Al-Shall Economic Consultants said.
Morocco questions EU will on fishing accord
Morocco expressed regret on Saturday at the
European Union's attitude in negotiations on a new fisheries accord
and questioned the bloc's "real will" to reach an agreement.
The fisheries ministry said answers given by the EU
team in the talks ignored the committment of both sides to achieve
balanced cooperation and partnership.
"Morocco questions the real will of the EU to
continue contacts in order to advance positively in the negotiations
as expressed in October by Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler," the
ministry said in a statement faxed to Reuters.
Fischler said after visiting Morocco in mid-October
that the two sides agreed to negotiate "a new fisheries
partnership...and a new form of cooperation that reflects the
interests of both sides".
Oman exemplifies GCC first private sector housing
Now that the GCC real estate recession looks like
it's on its way out, realty financing will be the new buzzword in
corporate circles. Good tidings indeed for the Gulf region's first
private sector housing bank, the Alliance Housing Bank, in Oman.
Established in 1998, Alliance Bank finances home
loans for the purchase, construction, completion and other related
outflows of private residence. Loans up to 80 per cent of the value of
the property are granted at variable interest rates. The bank also
focuses on long term financial planning with innovative investment
schemes like retirement and education plans.
"The main priority of the bank is to help
citizens realize their aspirations of home ownership," says a
company spokesperson. "The bank also seeks to develop a long term
savings perspective in the minds of people to accumulate wealth in
their productive years to meet their retirement, children's education,
health and general savings."