Nov 27 -
Dec 03, 2000
OPEC to hit oil gamblers
OPEC is considering measures to limit the impact of
speculative oil buying which it believes has added up to $8 to the
price of a barrel of crude, the cartel's president told a newspaper
"We are analyzing the situation provoked by
this practice and very soon we will propose new mechanisms to correct
the very high levels of speculation although, I insist, I do not
believe we can eliminate it altogether," Venezuela's Ali
Rodriguez told Spanish financial daily Expansion. He did not
Rodriguez said it was "absurd" that
benchmark crudes West Texas Intermediate, Brent and Dubai sold a
million barrels between them per day but were indicators for world
"OPEC itself, which is placing 22 million
export barrels daily, suffers from this phenomenon and is affected by
output or volumes that are totally marginal in the global
market," Rodriguez told the newspaper.
Rodriguez said: "In these markets there are
days when 150 million barrels have been sold. That doubles daily
demand for oil in the whole world."
"Speculation, which alters the price of a
barrel by between $4 and $8, is a reality in the capitalist world in
which we live. But you can't get rid of it, only moderate it."
Rodriguez, bowing out as Venezuela's oil minister
and due to swap the rotating presidency of OPEC for the post of cartel
secretary general in January, said tackling speculation would be one
of his priorities.
He said refining capacity, a lack of reliable
information on stocks levels, transportation costs and high taxation
levels were also affecting oil prices.
Rodriguez also said OPEC was ready to cut or
increase production if prices swung by too much, but added the cartel
believed there was now an oversupply of around 1.4 million barrels
daily on markets.
Egypt trade deficit eases as economy picks up
Egypt's trade deficit narrowed markedly in the
quarter from July to September from the year-ago quarter amid a
general macroeconomic improvement, the Central Bank said on Tuesday.
The trade deficit declined to $2.37 billion
compared to $3.00 billion in the same period last year.
The current account deficit was cut to $112 million
in the first quarter of fiscal 2000/2001 (July/June) from $377.9
million during the same quarter of last year.
The balance of payments deficit has narrowed to
$555.9 million from $1.02 billion a year ago.
Egypt's foreign debt fell to $26.75 billion at the
end of September 2000 then again to $26.3 billion at the end of
October 2000 from $27.78 billion at the end of June 2000.
Total tourism income reached $1.21 billion in the
quarter compared to $1.18 billion in the same period last year.
Total Suez Canal income reached $465.8 million in
the quarter compared to $431.2 million in the same quarter last year.
Revenue from tourism and the Suez Canal are a key
source of foreign currency for Egypt, along with remittances from
Egyptians abroad and oil exports. Net inflows invested in securities
increased to $286.8 million during the quarter from $132.1 million in
the year-ago quarter.
Net inflows of foreign direct investments reached
$109.8 million in the quarter compared to $114.9 million a year ago.
Oil price rises sharply
The price of oil climbed sharply on Monday on a
market rattled by the prospect of a cold northern hemisphere winter,
but little market-moving news emerged from the International Energy
Forum in Riyadh over the weekend.
Benchmark Brent North Sea crude oil for delivery in
January was selling for $33.65 a barrel here, up from $33.08 a barrel
at the close Friday.
Prices had risen to $33.95 in initial deals.
The main factor behind the increase in prices was a
drop in temperatures in the United States over the weekend, while
fears of a slowdown in Iraqi oil exports in protest over a dispute
with the United Nations over oil revenues had added to market concern,
The three-day meeting of consuming and producing
nations hosted by Saudi Arabia ending on Sunday did not reach an
official consensus on a specific 'fair' price for crude, but Saudi Oil
Minister Ali al-Nuaimi stressed that the demands of the two sides were
not far apart.
Diplomatic, political efforts surge to stem Mideast
Political and diplomatic maneuvers intensified late
Thursday to defuse clashes in the Palestinian occupied territories,
after three days of non-stop bloodletting.
The flurry of diplomacy included a 20-minute phone
call between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and US Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright, who promised US support in stemming
bloodshed which has claimed the lives of nearly 233 Palestinians and
28 Israelis, in eight weeks.
Arafat's top aide Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP that
Albright said Washington would "do its best to cool the situation
down and push the two parties to restore calm."
Arafat earlier held talks with EU special envoy for
the Middle East Miguel Angel Moratinos to discuss issues such as an
Israeli blockade on the Palestinian territories and a proposal for an
international protection force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a
high-ranking Palestinian official told AFP.
US questions Syria on Iraqi oil pipeline
The US State Department said on Tuesday it asked
the Syrian government whether it could confirm reports that Iraq has
resumed pumping oil through a pipeline to Syria without UN approval.
"We've inquired with the Syrians about these
reports — whether they are accurate ... We are looking into them
through our embassy in Damascus," said a State Department
official, who asked not to be named.
The United States, which is seeking to stop the
erosion of UN sanctions against Iraq, would oppose Iraqi oil exports
through the pipeline without UN permission.
"What we have said in the past is that we have
made it known to the Syrians that opening the pipeline without the
approval of the UN Security Council would not be in accordance with UN
Security Council resolutions," the State Department official
He declined to speculate on what the US would do if
it confirmed that oil was flowing.
Palestinian economy loses $426 million
The United Nations said on Tuesday the Palestinian
economy had lost an estimated $426 million in a two-month wave of
violence with Israel that showed no sign of ebbing.
The Gaza office of the United Nations Special
Coordinator (UNSCO) to the Middle East peace process said about
900,000 people, or just under a third of the Palestinian population,
have been directly affected by loss of jobs in Israel.
Before the current crisis, tens of thousands of
Palestinian breadwinners crossed into Israel every day to find work.
Citing security concerns, Israel tightened travel restrictions on
Palestinians after violence erupted on September 28.
Arabs pledge nearly $700 mln to Palestinians
Arab states had pledged nearly 700 million dollars
to support the Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation by
the end of a meeting of Arab finance ministers here Thursday,
participating countries said.
An Arab summit on October 22 decided to set up two
funds worth one billion dollars to help the Palestinians cope with the
economic repercussions of eight weeks of Israeli-Palestinians clashes.
Officials said so far Saudi Arabia has offered 250
million dollars, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates 150 million each,
Qatar 50 million, Algeria and Egypt 30 million, Oman and Yemen 10
million each, Syria seven million, Jordan two million and Sudan one
All amounts except those pledged by Saudi Arabia
and Kuwait were promised at the gathering of finance ministers to
discuss ways to implement the Arab summit's decision.
Egyptian recall of envoy draws praise from around
Egypt's decision to recall its ambassador to Israel
drew widespread approval Wednesday from newspapers around the region,
all of them either heavily influenced or controlled by government
Egypt recalled Ambassador Mohammed Bassiouni for
consultations Tuesday in protest over heavy Israeli strikes on the
The Emirati daily Al-Ittihad hailed Egypt's as
"a clear message to Israel that we can no longer keep silent over
its crimes." "The supporters of normalization have failed,
and Arab solidarity has eradicated the cancerous cells in the Arab
Jordan looks to build oil shale power plant
Jordan's Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources
is inviting international power firms to submit proposals to build a
power plant by tapping the country's huge oil shale reserves, industry
officials said on Tuesday.
Interested global firms must submit by May 31,
2001, their technical and financial proposals to build the oil shale
fired power plant using direct combustion technology on a Build Own
and Operate (BOO) basis, they said.
The proposals for constructing the 100-300 megawatt
plant at the Sultani area in the south of the kingdom, where known
large reserves of oil shale exist, should include the project's
Total shale reserves of oil are officially
estimated at about 40,000 million tonnes.
Iraq wants closer economic ties with neighbours
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tarek Aziq said the
time is right for Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan to forge closer
economic ties and benefit from their different strengths, a newspaper
reported on Monday.
"It is normal to establish economic
complementarity between Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan," Aziz
said in an interview in Baghdad with the Lebanese newspaper As Safir.
"Circumstances are propitious for its
establishment, particularly because of the regional situation, common
interests in such complementarity and the absence of any political
obstacle," Aziz said.
As for relations with neighbouring Turkey, Aziz
said that "despite important political differences between the
two countries and the Western air strikes launched from bases there
against Iraq, (Istanbul) is committed to maintain close economic
relations with Iraq." He said annual trade ties between Iraq and
Turkey reached one billion dollars.
Saudi on reforms track despite high oil price
Saudi Arabia appears to be pressing ahead with
sensitive economic reforms and a rare energy investment opening
despite high oil prices that have in the past slowed change in the
"Conventional wisdom is that when oil prices
are high, Saudi Arabia does nothing," said Brad Bourland, Chief
Economist at Saudi American Bank.
"But the reality is that because of the job
creation need, the reform track will not be derailed by high oil
prices." Western diplomats view Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah as a
progressive leader dead set on removing government red tape, easing
restrictions on foreign investment and tackling the kingdom's biggest
challenge — creating jobs for hundreds of thousands of young people
entering the work force each year.
Amman secures Tripoli backing
Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb said Sunday
he had won Libya's backing for a project to help out with his
country's meager water resources, the Petra news agency reported.
"Jordan has won a commitment from Libya to
support the underwater pumping project from the Dissi aquifer,"
said Abu Ragheb before the end of his visit to Tripoli, where he met
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the Jordanian agency said.
"We have decided to complete in December the
technical studies and to create a bilateral committee to study the
means of financing the project," which should cost 650 million
dollars, he said, according to Petra.
New tourism company
Bahrain on Sunday approved, in principle, the
setting up of a 100 million dinar ($265 million) tourism company to
develop the Gulf Arab state's tourism industry, the Gulf News Agency
The agency said the cabinet, in its weekly meeting,
approved the setting up of the company and ordered economic and
financial studies into the scheme. It said the firm, expected to
become a centre for developing the island state's tourism potential,
would have a 100 million dinar capital.
Saudi Arabia's Dallah Real Estate and Tourism
Development Company last year signed a deal with the Bahraini
government to set up a tourism company.
US to call on Gulf oil if Iraq halts output
US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on Sunday
played down the consequences of any halt in Iraqi crude production,
saying Gulf states would make up any potential shortfall in oil
"I would simply say that Iraq should adhere to
established norms for doing business with the United Nations and the
international community," Richardson told reporters on the last
day of the 7th International Energy Forum in Riyadh.
"We do believe that Gulf countries or the
United States could make up that shortfall" caused if Baghdad
were to halt output, Richardson said. "The first option would be
the Gulf states filling in that gap." Baghdad last week informed
customers they had to pay a premium of 50 cents over the barrel into
an account outside the control of the United Nations and warned that
contracts would be scrapped if they failed to comply.