Mideast peace problems chill Moscow talks
Arab reluctance to integrate Israel into the Middle East before it
concludes peace with its neighbours may keep next week's multilateral talks in Moscow as
glacial as the Russian winter.
Setbacks in Syrian-Israeli talks and painfully slow progress on the
Israeli-Palestinian track are clouding the February 1 meeting, the first of its kind in
more than three years.
Syria, one of Moscow's closest Middle East allies in the Soviet era, is
staying away, along with its client Lebanon.
Egypt says it will attend only to stress that bilateral peacemaking
must precede region-wide talks.
Jordan and the Palestinians say they cannot afford to be left out of
any discussions that affect them, especially in such vital areas as water and Palestinian
Faisal Al-Husseini, heading the Palestinian team to the talks, said the
Palestinians had always viewed the multilateral track as a showcase but only for
He said over-eager Arabs also needed reminding that solving the core of
the Middle East dispute must take priority.
Russia, co-sponsor with the United States of Middle East peace
negotiations, sent out invitations to the Moscow gathering just days before a third round
of talks between Israel and Syria last week was delayed due to disagreements over the
The United States has tried to chivvy its Arab friends into showing up
for the meeting in the Russian capital.
Egypt, the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979,
clearly believes the effort is premature.
Water-short Jordan hosts about 1.2 million Palestinian refugees and is
keen to show its people an economic dividend from the peace treaty it signed with Israel
George W. Bush lectures OPEC
In what seems to be a steadily increasing stream of both official and
non official US statements regarding OPEC's oil policy, Texas Gov. George W.Bush, the top
Republican in the race for the White House, said on Wednesday President Bill Clinton
should urge OPEC to produce more crude oil and drive world oil prices lower again.
Speaking during a debate among Republican presidential candidates, Bush
said he supported a decision by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson not to draw down the
national Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to help cover market shortages and push prices
But he said the real problem was production cuts agreed by the
Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Dubai frees up trade for Gulf Arabs
The UAE emirate of Dubai has decided to allow other Gulf Arab citizens
to carry out general trade activities, giving them the same rights as UAE nationals.
An order issued by Dubai's Crown Prince and United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Defence Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum gave citizens from Gulf Arab
countries "the same rights and responsibilities to practice trade activities in the
emirate like those being enjoyed by UAE nationals".
The order was carried by the official Emirates News Agency (WAM) and
was published in local newspapers on Thursday.
Foreigners in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) cannot own property and
need UAE sponsors who must always own a majority stake in any business venture. Dubai is
one of the seven emirates of the UAE and is a major regional trade and business centre.
Iran: Qatar seeks joint energy consortium
Qatar seeks a joint consortium with Iran to carry oil and gas from the
Gulf to Europe, the official Iranian news agency IRNA said on Wednesday.
"Qatar is interested in implementing joint ventures with Iran and
to establish consortiums to transfer Persian Gulf oil and gas to Europe," IRNA quoted
visiting Qatar's Minister of state for Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Khalifa Al-Attiyah as
It said Attiyah had conveyed the message in talks on Tuesday with
Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi.
Saudi, Oman knocking on WTO door
Saudi Arabia and Oman, the only Gulf Arab states outside the World
Trade Organisation (WTO), will boost their investor appeal by joining the group and
encourage much-needed economic liberalisation, analysts say.
Both countries expect their bids for membership to be successful soon
and in Oman's case, membership could be imminent, trade officials said.
The country derives more than 70 percent of its export earnings from
Egypt privatisation to spur exports
Egypt, nearly midway through its privatisation drive, needs to push on
with reform and retraining to compete in world export markets, its privatisation chief
"We have to increase our exports," said Public Enterprise
Minister Mokhtar Khattab, who took office in October after his predecessor, Atef Obeid,
became prime minister.
"It's not easy or possible until we expand our production base,
improve our quality and decrease our cost and prices through modernisation and upgrading
our capacity in industry," he told Reuters.
Kuwait, Jordan to sign investment agreement
Investment Promotion Corporation IPC Director General Reem Badran on
Monday said Jordan and Kuwait will this week sign an agreement for investment protection
and promotion between Jordan and Kuwait.
Badran's remarks came in a statement to Petra following talks between
Jordanian and Kuwait officials on the draft of the agreement. The agreement will help
expand mutual investment opportunities, Badran said.
She pointed out Jordan has received positive gestures on the
willingness of Kuwaiti investors to establish investments in the country in the fields of
tourism and information technology.''
Egyptian, Saudi bourses shine in bad week for Arab markets
The Egyptian and Saudi stocks markets bucked the trend in a bad week
for Arab bourses, Bakheet Financial Advisors (BFA) reported Saturday.
The best performer was the Hermes Financial Index in Egypt which shot
up 5.3 percent to 14,577.30 points, on the back of a fall in interest rates, BFA said.
At the other end of the scale was Bahrain's BSE index which lost 2.5
percent to slide to 2,151.79 points "on technical selling ahead of dividend
payments." The winner in the Gulf was the stock market in oil giant Saudi Arabia,
where the NCFEI index rose 2.1 percent to 2,105.11 points, fuelLed mainly by electrical
utilities which climbed on news of upcoming restructuring.
But Qatar's CBQ index was the only positive performer elsewhere in the
oil-rich Gulf, rising a modest 0.6 percent to 228.91 points following an announcement that
the market will be opened to foreign investors this year.
Kuwait's KSE index, the second largest in the Arab world after the
NCFEI, fell 1.7 percent to 1,388.00 points.
Oman's MSM went down 1.4 percent to 247.04 points, while the NBAD index
in the Emirates closed at 2,914.16 points, down 0.7 percent on the week.
Also down was the Tunindex in Tunisia which shed 1.4 percent to close
at 1,300.02 points on the back of profit-taking.
Lebanon's BLOM index was up slightly, adding 0.3 percent to reach
719.84 points, while the Jerusalem index of the Palestinian territories lost 0.3 percent
to slip to 241.29 points.
In Jordan, the AFM index fell 0.8 percent to 162.67 points, while the
CSE index in Morocco closed at 775.94 points, down 0.5 percent.
Deal for new Airbus
Dubai carrier Emirates has signed a financing deal to buy a new Airbus
A330-200, valued at 81.9 million dollars, the official WAM news agency said early on
The deal was guaranteed by Britain's Export Credit Guarantee
Department, Germany's Hermes and France's COFACE. The long-haul aircraft is due to be
delivered January 29 and is one of 18 such planes ordered in 1996.
Bahrain's First Islamic Investment Bank on Tuesday said its profits
increased 33 percent in 1999 to 16 million dollars, and it was proposing a 10 percent
dividend worth 11.2 million dollars.
Urges bank mergers
The Union of Arab Banks warned on Friday that small Arab banks face the
risk of going under unless regional monetary authorities force them to merge or strengthen
their financial position.
"Arab central banks should mobilise, not remain lax about small
banks which are lacking in capital, supervision, administration and technology,"
Adnan El Hindi, general secretary of the Union of Arab banks, told Reuters.
Saudi British Bank
Saudi British Bank profits rose eight percent in 1999 to 661 million
riyals (176 million dollars), the bank said in a statement Tuesday.
US Eximbank pledges loans to Algeria
The US export credit bank, Eximbank, chairman James Harmon told
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika the bank board of directors has approved an
expansion of its activity in Algeria and an unspecified amount of long term loans,
state-run radio said.
"I'm happy to notify you that the Eximbank board of directors
endorsed on Monday the expansion of our programmes in Algeria. The Eximbank is now able to
grant Algeria long term loans without setting up an upper limit to their amounts,"
the radio said, quoting a letter from Harmon to Boutelfika.
Iraq, Jordan sign oil deal
Iraq will provide Jordan with 4.8 million tonnes of oil this year, half
of it free just like last year, under an agreement signed here Saturday.
Jordan will not have to pay more than 300 million dollars for the 35
million barrels of oil it will receive from Iraq, Jordan's Energy Minister Wael Sabri told
reporters at the ceremony where he signed the accord with Iraqi Oil Minister Amer
Iran echoes winds of change towards US business relations
The head of Iran's special economic district on Kish Island has
suggested his free zone could play host one day to an official US presence - seen as
unacceptable on the mainland.
In an interview published on Sunday, Mohammad Reza Yazdan- Panah said
he would be prepared to support any such move by the American side. No request has been
made, he said.
"The Americans, like any other nationality, can come to Kish
without visas," Yazdan-Panah told the daily Abrar-e Eqtesadi. "Except for
Israeli nationals, there is no limitation on anyone."
US investment and trade
US investment and trade in the Gulf region is set to reach new heights
in the coming years with Bahrain playing a key role in market accessibility and
partnership, said the visiting US Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary, Molly
Williamson, according to the daily Bahrain Tribune paper dated January 23rd.
Molly was speaking at a press conference at the Diplomat Hotel joined
by the US Ambassador to Bahrain Johnny Young and other American Embassy officials, the
The senior American official is in a major tour of Gulf countries to
update and meet the key commerce and business leaders, according to the paper.
Iran, Kuwait sign MoU on trade
Kuwait and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding to promote
bilateral trade, it was reported.
The MoU was signed at the end of meetings of the joint Kuwaiti-Iranian
trade committee. The Iranian deputy trade minister, Abdelhussein Wahji, who signed the MoU
on behalf of Iran, had arrived in Kuwait last Monday for the joint committee meetings.
The MoU is related to expansion of trade between the two countries. The
volume of trade between Kuwait and Iran witnessed an improvement last year when it
exceeded $100 million dollar mark. The Iranian deputy trade minister attributed this
increase due to the vigorous efforts of both public and private sectors in the two
Saudis 'to open up insurance' (Gulf
Saudi Arabia's medical insurance market worth billions of dollars will
be opened up to foreign companies, the kingdom's health minister said in a newspaper
Ossama Shobokshi said the market would be opened up in response to a
law making it compulsory for the six million expatriates living in Saudi Arabia to take
out health insurance, Al-Hayat reported.
The insurance sector is currently monopolised by the state-run Saudi
National Insurance Co whose subscriptions total three billion riyals ($800 million).