Dec 04 -
Palestinians reject Barak's proposal
Beleaguered Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak
proposed a peace deal on Thursday to give Palestinians a state, annex
Jewish settlements to Israel and delay negotiations on Al Quds and
Palestinian refugees for up to three years.
Palestinian officials swiftly rejected the offer as
a re-election ploy and said any accord had to cover all issues,
including Al Quds and the refugees.
Barak urged Israelis alarmed by a two-month-old
Palestinian uprising to back his peace efforts, telling them they
could not rely solely on military might when it came to ending
"It's time for us to stop being afraid,"
said Barak, who is seeking a fresh mandate in general election next
"We are the strongest country in the Middle
East and even this doesn't mean we can solve every problem with one
big punch," he said in an address to Israeli editors.
Peace prospects have rarely looked gloomier.
Israeli troops shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian student and wounded
three others in the West Bank, witnesses and medical sources said.
The shooting south of Bethlehem raised to at least
286 the number of people, mostly Palestinians, who have been killed in
the uprising against Israeli occupation.
The Israeli army said soldiers had fired
rubber-coated metal bullets in clashes in the area and knew of no
In other clashes at least 50 youths threw stones at
Israeli troops in Gaza and five Palestinians were wounded, four of
them with bullet injuries to the head, hospital officials said.
In an animated speech that appeared to be the
launch of his election campaign, Barak told the senior Israeli
journalists that in view of failed peace moves to date, he had been
weighing a proposal to deal with security and borders.
U.S. ready to act if Iraq halts oil sale
The United States is ready to take action,
including dipping further into its strategic petroleum reserve, if
Iraq halts its oil exports, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said on
"The U.S. is prepared to respond to Iraq if
they take these steps," Richardson told reporters after
addressing a conference on electricity deregulation.
Asked if the Clinton administration would be
willing to release more oil from the strategic petroleum reserve, he
said: "We are ready to do it quickly. "
He added that several oil exporting countries in
the Middle East had pledged to compensate for any shortfall.
"Several Gulf states have said they would make
up the shortfall ... and we could use the (Strategic Petroleum
Reserve)," he said.
The Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) reported
that Iraq intended to halt oil exports unless companies agreed to pay
a 50 cent per barrel surcharge that it has demanded.
Iraq, which exports an estimated 2.4 million
barrels of oil a day is among the leading sources of foreign oil for
the United States. Officials here have acknowledged that a cut-off
could impose difficulties on U.S. households and industry,
particularly as winter approaches.
MEES said Baghdad's State Oil Marketing
Organisation had sent a fax to buyers informing them that unless they
pay the surcharge into a special account from December 1 they will
lose their cargoes.
Under UN sanctions since its invasion of Kuwait in
1990, Iraq has been authorised to sell oil abroad, using the proceeds
to acquire humanitarian goods under a UN-administered programme.
HSBC, Iranian banks sign $500m deal
HSBC has signed a Dh 1.85b ($500 million)
medium-term project finance framework agreement with six Iranian
commercial banks. The deal was coordinated by the Central Bank of
The deal formalises the basis for loans, secured by
leading export credit agencies on either a sole or multi-sourced
basis, to finance infrastructure projects in Iran by large
The Iranian banks involved in the agreement are
Bank Melli, Bank Saderat, Bank Mellat Bank Tejarat, Bank Sepah and the
Export Development Bank.
HSBC opened a representative office in Tehran in
October last year, returning to the Iranian market after an absence of
over 20 years. During the past year, HSBC representatives in Iran have
been actively involved in developing a broad range of commercial and
investment banking activities.
Moody's upgraded Iran's country rating in October.
Cover limits for Iran have generally been increased by European export
credit agencies over the past year, most recently by UK's ECGD.
Abu Dhabi stalls oil major's expansion plans
Hopes at oil majors BP Amoco and TotalFinaElf for
the expansion of their upstream oil stakes in Abu Dhabi have dimmed
again after reaching fever pitch two months ago, a regional newspaper
and analysts said on Wednesday.
The oil majors, both with deep-rooted investments
in the UAE, had appeared poised to take on significant equity stakes
in the Zakum Development Company (Zadco) from majority shareholder,
state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).
But the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper
reported on Wednesday that the SPC had objected to a package which
would have seen BP acquiring 14.67 per cent and TotalFinaElf 13.33 per
cent of Zadco.
"The deal had reached a stage of detailed
discussion, but it was frozen and all the results reached were also
frozen," the pan-Arab newspaper quoted oil sources in Abu Dhabi
Regional oil analysts, who requested anonymity,
told Reuters that internal debate within the United Arab Emirates'
ultimate oil decision-maker, the Supreme Petroleum Council, has left
negotiations in limbo.
Gulf states need $100b for power over 10 years
Gulf Arab states need to invest $100 billion over
the next 10 years and speed up privatisation of their power sector to
meet rapidly growing demand, a regional body said.
The Gulf Organisation for Industrial Consultancy (GOIC)
said in a monthly bulletin that the six nations also needed to
streamline operations in the power sector and implement a planned
regional power grid project.
The Doha-based GOIC promotes industrial cooperation
between Gulf Arab states. It groups the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
states — Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United
"The essential investment needed for the
generation of electricity in the GCC region is estimated at $100
billion to satisfy projected demand in the coming decade," the
GOIC said demand for electricity in the region was
growing at an average seven per cent a year and required investments
of some $10.5 billion per year.
First commercial flight
A Royal Jordanian plane arrived in Baghdad
overnight Thursday from Amman, the first commercial flight to Iraq
since 1990, an aviation source said.
"The plane, an Airbus A310, landed at Saddam
Hussein international airport after a flight of an hour and a
half," the source told AFP.
Passengers were met at the airport by leading Iraqi
officials, the source added.
The Airbus 310 plane left Amman's Queen Alia
international airport with 29 passengers on board, including
It was due to leave Baghdad for the return flight
at dawn on Friday, after a brief stop in the Iraqi capital.
Espionage scandal fuels tense Egypt-Israel relation
A new espionage scandal fuel the already tense
Israeli-Egytian relations. While Israel denied Tuesday any involvement
with an espionage case in Egypt involving an Egyptian engineer and a
former Russian officer, Egypt confirmed that both suspected worked for
Israel's Mossad spy agency.
Egypt's intelligence agency had informed
prosecutors in September that a Russian agent for Mossad had recruited
Sherif Fawzi El-Filali, 35, Egyptian engineer and introduced him to
two Israeli intelligence officers.
Egypt's prosecutor general, filed complaints in the
day against the suspects to the supreme state security court, which
summoned Mohammed El-Filali, the 34-year-old engineer, Egypt's Middle
East News Agency (MENA) reported November 28.
Egyptian prosecutors said that El-Filali was
recruited and was later arrested in Cairo, to stand trial on charges
of spying for Israel.
National Bank of Kuwait's $105 million takeover of
Egypt's Misr America International Bank, a key part of its regional
expansion plan, has stalled because of a legal dispute, NBK said on
NBK, Kuwait's largest commercial bank, had earlier
this year offered 531 Egyptian pounds ($140) a share for the entire
750,000 MAIB shares. A second bidder, Credit Agricole Indosuez, a unit
of Credit Agricole of France, is now in talks to take over MAIB at 420
pounds a share.
Algerian government raises minimum wage by 33%
The Algerian government will increase the country's
minimum wage by 33 per cent and raise civil servants' salaries by 15
The increases will come into effect on January 1,
2001, Trade Minister Mourad Medelci said late on Saturday following a
cabinet meeting chaired by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The decision raises the minimum monthly salary to
8,000 dinars ($100) from 6,000 dinars. The North African country's
main labour union confederation had demaned a minimum wage of 10,000
Medelcihe told a news conference the government had
taken into consideration the union's platform and the finances of the
Lebanon cuts import duties
The Lebanese government on Wednesday scrapped
import duties on raw material used in industry and on
semi-manufactured products, information Minister Ghazi al-Aridi said.
And he said imported goods that had duties
exceeding 100 per cent would now carry a 70 per cent tariff.
Finance Minister Fouad Siniora said on Tuesday
lowering import duties was the main component of a strategy to restore
economic growth, which he expected to finish at zero this year.
Aridi did not give comparative tariff levels before
the latest cabinet decision. He said a list of all products affected
would be distributed later but the reductions excluded the highly
protected agricultural sector.
Eastern Tobacco, in which the state plans to float
a fresh tranche later this year, will launch several new upmarket
cigarette brands soon, the company said on Tuesday.
Reda Al-Maghrabi, spokesperson of Eastern Tobacco,
said the company was also building a new production site to meet
Maghrabi said the group was planning to launch
several new top-of-the market brands in Egypt "very soon"
which were designed to compete with major international brands.
Saudi prince to buy Beirut hotel for $90m
Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal is holding
negotiations to buy the Carlton seafront hotel in Beirut for 90
million dollars, the hotel's current owner told AFP on Tuesday.
"The deal has not been finalized yet and
negotiations are ongoing," Joseph Mudawar said.
The deal involves a 10,000-square-meter (107,600
square foot) piece of land in the Raouche coastal neighborhood, with a
130-room hotel built in 1976 a year after the 15-year civil war
It also includes the skeleton of an annex building
of 23 floors, with a capacity for 235 rooms, which had not been
finished due to the war.
The Saudi tycoon, 43, also owns the nearby seafront
Movenpick luxurious hotel which is due to open next year, in addition
to numerous investments in Lebanon in the tourism, banking and media
Moroccan bourse continues fall
Morocco's bourse ended 0.18 per cent lower on
Tuesday amid a continuing absence of investors, brokers said.
The all-share index closed at 674.21 points down
from Monday's 675.42 points. It has fallen 13.26 per cent in the year
Blue-chip BMCE Bank led the trade for the second
consecutive day with almost 51 per cent of the thin 21.5 million
dirhams ($1.94 million) volume traded.
Iraq, India set platform
Iraq said on Wednesday its ties with India had
turned the corner and the two nations were set on a long-term
Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan, the highest
ranking Iraqi official to visit New Delhi in 25 years, said the two
countries had agreed to boost ties in all sectors, including oil that
had been affected by 10-year-old UN sanctions imposed on Iraq.
"I call this visit a true turning point in our
relations. We are establishing long-term strategic relations and not
just related to oil," he told a news conference after a round of
meetings with Indian leaders.
The two countries reached an agreement on a
wheat-for-oil deal that will go to the UN sanctions committee for
approval, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said.
Under the counter-trade deal, India will export
wheat to Iraq in exchange for Iraqi crude oil and petroleum products,