Dec 11 -
UN allows Iraq to use funds
The United Nations Security Council, through a
resolution on Tuesday, allowed Iraq to use the accumulated funds from
its "Oil-for-food" programme on rebuilding its oil
infrastructure and for alleviating poverty.
Under the programme, Iraq is allowed to sell its
petroleum and petroleum products and use the funds for humanitarian
goods, compensation to victims claiming damages as a result of
Baghdad's invasion of Kuwait, and certain other expenses.
The council decided to reduce the proportion of
funds allocated to the compensation fund from 30 per cent to 25 per
cent, and to use the five per cent difference for "strictly
humanitarian projects to address the needs of the most vulnerable
groups in Iraq."
The resolution was anticipated after an agreement
was reached in late September among the five permanent members of the
Security Council to award some $15.9 billion to the Kuwait Petroleum
Corporation from the fund.
A UN spokesman reported that the permanent five
settled that claim while agreeing to reduce the percentage of funds
received by the commission from the sale of Iraqi oil and to use the
difference for the humanitarian programme.
The resolution also requested the secretary-general
to make necessary arrangements, subject to council approval, to allow
funds of up to 600 million euros deposited in the escrow account to be
used "for the costs of installation and maintenance, including
training services, of the equipment and spare parts for the oil
industry." It also called upon the Iraqi government to cooperate
in the implementation of such arrangements.
It's the first time since the oil-for-food's
programme's establishment in 1995 that the council expressed its
"readiness to consider, in the light of the cooperation of Iraq
in implementing all the resolutions of the council, allowing a sum of
15 million dollars to be drawn from the escrow account to be used as
payment of the arrears in Iraq's contribution to the budget of the
Saudis to fill Iraqi oil gap
OPEC power Saudi Arabia vowed Monday to take
definite action, with other oil producers, to fill any gap in supplies
created after Iraq suspended its oil sales of more than two million
barrels per day (bpd).
"Saudi Arabia, in coordination with other
producers, will definitely fill the gap left by the suspension of
Iraqi oil exports," a Saudi source said. "But the timing is
not yet definite."
Iraqi oil exports ground to a halt Friday after
Baghdad demanded that buyers of its crude pay a 50-cent per barrel
surcharge outside the terms of the United Nations oil-for-food
As the halt in Iraqi oil loadings lengthens, big
volume end-users of Baghdad's output are looking increasingly to Saudi
Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer, to help supply alternatives,
industry sources said.
U.S. refiners may be particularly unnerved,
especially after Baghdad threatened at the weekend to punish any
company selling its crude oil into hostile countries, namely the
United States, market sources said.
The Saudi source repeated that the kingdom is
continuing to hold consultations with fellow oil producers and the
International Energy Agency about a course of action.
"The result (of the discussions) will be
definite," he said.
Washington repeatedly has said it can look to key
ally Saudi Arabia to help fill any shortfall in Iraqi supplies or
possibly draw down industrialized nations' strategic reserves.
But Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh said
Sunday that OPEC will find it difficult to replace the full volume
taken out of the market by Iraq.
"Compensating Iraq's share, which is 2.5
million bpd, which is not a small quantity, will be difficult,"
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said recently that
the kingdom can bring on an extra 1.8 million barrels per day in 90
Iraq to host first Arab ministerial meeting in a
A group of Arab trade ministers decided Wednesday
to meet in Iraq next year for the first Arab ministerial meeting there
since the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops in 1990, Iraq's trade
Ministers of the 10 member states of the Arab
League's committee for economic unity unanimously decided to hold
their next meeting in Baghdad from June 6 to 7, 2001, Iraqi Trade
Minister Mohammed Mahdi Saleh told AFP.
A League official who asked not to be identified
said the decision "reflects the solidarity of the member states
with Iraq." Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Mauritania, the
Palestinian Authority, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are the 10
members of the committee. The Arab League has a total of 22 member
Iraq, meanwhile, persuaded Egypt and Libya to agree
in principle to announce a free trade zone between the three
Saleh said Iraq wants the prime ministers of the
three countries to sign such an agreement.
Palestinians court international support
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat meets European
Union envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos on Thursday to court diplomatic
backing for peace and the Palestinian cause in the Middle East.
A senior Palestinian minister, meanwhile, said a
US-led international committee of inquiry would get total freedom from
the Palestinian side to investigate a 10-week wave of Israeli
aggressions in which almost 280 Palestinians — have died.
"They will have from our side total freedom to
move and investigate," Planning and International Cooperation
Minister Nabil Shaath told Reuters. "...we will respond to their
questions, let them interview people and to see how the Israeli
aggression started." A Palestinian official said Arafat and the
EU envoy would discuss European support for the rights of Palestinians
and a European role in halting what he called the Israeli assault.
Shaath said that if Israel really allowed the
committee of inquiry to work and abided by its recommendations, this
might open the way to further steps that would lead to the resumption
of the peace process.
Oil finds its feet after $4 crash
Oil prices recovered some poise on Wednesday after
the three-day crash that has capsized crude's two-year bull run and
eased fears of a fuel crisis in the West this winter.
London Brent gained 46 cents to $28.25 a barrel
after a $4 fall since last Thursday.
US light crude added 57 cents to $30.10 a barrel
after dipping on Tuesday below $30 for the first time since early
"This is only a rebound. It does look for the
moment as if the bull run is totally over," said broker
Christopher Bellew of Prudential Bache.
"Oil seems to have broken the fundamental
uptrend," said analyst Steve Turner at Commerzbank.
Tuesday's steep decline was triggered by news that
the United Nations had presented Iraq a compromise proposal to try and
end a deadlock over oil sales prices that kept Baghdad's crude exports
suspended for a sixth day on Wednesday.
The latest industry data on key heating oil and
gasoline inventory in the United States allayed concerns over winter
heating fuel supply problems.
Syria to end 40 year rule over banking sector
President Bashar Al-Assad approved sweeping
economic reforms for Syria on Saturday, including the establishment of
private banks to end nearly 40 years of government monopoly of the
Government officials told Reuters the approval came
during a meeting of the Regional Command (RC) of the Baath Party
headed by Assad which also approved issuing a law on banking privacy
and the establishment of a stock market.
Officials said the meeting directed the appropriate
authorities to discuss amending foreign currency exchange laws so the
Syrian pound's price would reflect the free market rate.
Economic sources said these were part of economic
reforms promised by Assad when he took office on July 17 following the
death of his father, President Hafez Al-Assad, on June 10.
The younger Assad, a 35-year-old British-educated
eye doctor and army officer interested in computer science, has
adopted several economic and political reform measures during the last
Syria to return all Lebanese detainees soon
All Lebanese held in Syria, many allegedly without
trial or charges, will be released to the Beirut authorities soon, in
a long-awaited move agreed by the two country's presidents, the
Lebanese presidency said Wednesday.
The move to settle a delicate issue which had
remained in the dark for years came after a telephone conversation
early Wednesday between Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and his Syrian
counterpart Bashar Al-Assad, a statement said.
Saddam discusses oil deal with top aides
Iraq's President Saddam Hussein discussed on
Wednesday with his top aides a UN Security Council's resolution which
renewed the country's oil-for-food deal for another six months but no
decision was taken, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported.
It said Saddam discussed with senior ruling Baath
party members and Revolutionary Command Council "the recent
Security Council's resolution which extended the oil-for-food
programme for the ninth phase and it was agreed to hold further
discussions on the subject later on." The agency did not say,
however, when exactly the discussions would be resumed.
Lebanese team fly to Baghdad for more trade
A Lebanese ministerial delegation flies to Baghdad
on Thursday to discuss trade and oil-related issues, Information
Minister Ghazi al-Aridi said.
He said sending the delegation, which includes the
ministers of finance and economy, was in line with a policy of
increasing commercial ties with Iraq.
Beirut-based Trans Mediterranean Airways, which has
already flown several times to Baghdad in defiance of U.N. sanctions,
said the delegation would travel aboard one of its planes carrying 10
tonnes of humanitarian aid.
Egypt privatises nine more firms, eight hotels
Egypt has sold nine companies and eight hotels to
strategic investors for a total of 800 million Egyptian pounds ($208
million) as part of a broad privatisation programme, the minister of
public enterprise said on Wednesday.
Mokhtar Khattab told reporters that two of the
firms, namely food group Bisco Misr and Kafr el-Zayat Pesticides and
Chemicals , had already been partially privatised and the government
had now sold its remaining stake.
According to stock market statistics, the state had
previously sold 55 per cent of Bisco Misr and 75 per cent of Kafr el-Zayat.
The minister listed the nine companies as: Arab
Carpets and Upholstery; Egyptian Gypsum; National Metal Industries;
Arab Foundation/FIBRO; Abu Zaabal Fertilisers and Chemical Products;
Bisco Misr; Kafr el-Zayat Pesticides and Chemicals; Sornaga for
Ceramics; Damietta Spinning and Weaving.
He did not give a full list of the privatised
hotels, but said they included the Kalabsha and Amun in Aswan as well
as six Nile cruise ships.
The Saudi Telecommunications Co (STC) and SBC
Communications Inc have ended a strategic partnership agreement, which
would have offered the US firm a 20-40 per cent stake in the Saudi
company's $12 billion capital, an STC official said on Wednesday.
Saudi feedbacks oil firms on energy projects
Saudi Arabia has given major oil companies feedback
on their proposals for the kingdom's multi-billion dollar energy
opening, industry sources said on Monday .
"The Saudi negotiating team has informed all
the oil companies on where they stand," said an industry source.
"Everyone received an information pack on
Sunday from the Saudis which they are now digesting." Saudi
Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer, unveiled a rare, $100
billion energy sector opening to foreign oil firms two years ago.
A select group of 11 oil and gas companies
submitted their final proposals for upstream gas and downstream oil
projects at the end of August.
Libya finds gas field of 472b cubic feet
Libyan National Oil Corporation said on Monday its
Syrte oil and Gas unit had made a gas find with a reserve of around
472 billion cubic feet, Libyan news agency Jana reported on Monday.
"The new gas discovery was made northwest of
El Sumud gas field which lies about 90 km (56 miles) south of al
Brigua town," NOC was quoted by Jana as saying.
"The new gas find reserve was estimated at 472
billion cubic feet, of which about 293 billion cubic feet of gas are
recoverable," Jana added, quoting NOC.
Morocco says has no plans to devalue the dirham
Morocco will not devalue its national currency the
dirham, despite a continuing appreciation against the euro, the
official MAP news agency said on Saturday.
One euro was last exchanged against 9.5628/9.6202
dirhams, Bank al-Maghrib (central bank) figures showed.
Lebanon applies unorthodox economic policy
A textbook solution to Lebanon's recession and high
debt level would be to reduce the budget deficit, lower the 14 per
cent interest rate and economic growth should follow, financial
But the government of businessman Rafik Al-Hariri,
which took office last month, effectively argued from the start that
textbooks do not apply in Lebanon.
Hariri said it was politically impossible to reduce
the deficit, which stands at 15 per cent of gross domestic product.
Most public spending goes in paying the wages of
public employees hired according to sects and in servicing debt.
The government is counting on local banks to
continue financing the national debt and on cutting import duties to
achieve a three to five per cent growth next year after none in 2000
— an over-ambitious figure, say analysts.
Morocco could be forced to delay the planned
privatisation early next year of telecommunications giant Maroc
Telecom due to a lack of bidders, press reports said on Friday.
The Moroccan government two months ago launched an
international tender for the sale of a 35-per cent state in Maroc
Telecom worth 20 billion dirhams ($1.82 billion). The closing date was
set for December 20.