Mar 05 -
Syria approves free trade deal with Iraq
Syria's parliament has approved the establishment of a free
trade zone with Iraq and called for greater economic cooperation with Baghdad
after two decades of animosity, officials said on Thursday.
They said the deal, signed initially in Damascus on January
31 by Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan and Syrian Prime Minister
Mohammed Mustafa Mero, was unanimously approved by the 250-member People's
Assembly on Wednesday evening.
Analysts described the accord as the latest phase in the
rapprochement between the neighbours, which has included resumption of
diplomatic ties and the reopening of land and air transportation links.
Ties between Iraq and Syria, ruled by rival factions of the
Arab Baath Socialist Party, were cut off for the first time after the outbreak
of the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war, in which Damascus sided with Tehran.
Syria joined a US-led multinational alliance which drove
Iraqi occupation troops out of Kuwait in 1991. But it agreed to resume economic
and commercial cooperation with Baghdad in 1997, under the oil-for-food
programme signed between Iraq and the United Nations that allows Iraq to sell
some oil for humanitarian purposes while sanctions are in place. Approval of the
free-trade agreement followed a visit to Damascus on Monday by US Secretary of
State Colin Powell, in which he called for preservation of the UN economic
sanctions imposed on Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Powell said after talks with President Bashar Al-Assad that
Syria had agreed to put under UN inspection an oil pipeline carrying Iraqi oil
to the Mediterranean and Iraqi oil supplies to Syria, estimated at 100,000
barrels per day.
A Syrian official told Reuters on Thursday that while
respecting UN resolutions, Syria is calling for an end to the economic sanctions
imposed on Baghdad.
Turkish premier meet on economic crisis
Senior Turkish World Bank official Kemal Dervis flew to
Ankara on Thursday for talks with the prime minister that many hope will herald
the formation of a new economic team capable of resolving the country's crisis.
"I believe Turkish society is very strong and will
overcome all these problems... Of course we will come out, there's no doubt
about that," Dervis said. He declined to comment on reports he had been
offered the job of central bank governor or a cabinet post. "I will do my
best to help," he said.
Dervis went immediately to Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's
office to discuss a financial crisis that has slashed the value of the lira by a
quarter and left an IMF-backed disinflation programme in tatters. After a short
meeting he left with little comment, saying talks would continue on Friday.
Turkish media reported Ecevit wanted to make him central bank
governor, but World Bank sources in Washington said Dervis would move to Ankara
only for a full cabinet-level position.
Dervis brushed off suggestions that he was bringing a set of
pre-conditions to the talks. "My having conditions is not an issue,"
he said after meeting Ecevit.
Stocks rose seven per cent and the lira had a better day as
markets bet Dervis would restore some confidence.
"The name is respectable in international markets. I'd
hope if he comes it's not only as central bank chief but also in an advisory
position that's clear of the politicians," said Burak Akbulut, a strategist
with Bayindir Securities.
The central bank governor and treasury chief, both closely
associated with the abandoned IMF-backed programme, have resigned over the
crisis but no ministers have lost their jobs.
Parliament in Qatar within two years
Qatar's Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani said in
remarks published on Tuesday that his country was planning to establish a
parliament within a year-and-a-half.
Sheikh Hamad, in remarks to a German radio station excerpts
of which were published by Qatari newspapers, said: "The state of Qatar
started municipal elections two-and-a-half years ago. The process was calm and
now we are tending to establish a parliament.
"I'll be glad that all authority won't be in my
hands...it's as simple as this. I believe that this is in the interest of our
homeland and the next generations," Sheikh Hamad said in response to a
question on the division of powers.
Annan: A common policy towards Iraq is needed
With major Security Council powers at odds over policies
toward Iraq, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed for unity so he could
negotiate properly with Baghdad officials in the future.
Reporting on two days of talks with an Iraqi government
delegation this week, Annan acknowledged late on Wednesday that no new proposals
had emerged to break the impasse over sanctions and UN weapons inspections.
Instead, the Iraqis had submitted a stack of documents to show why the
decade-old sweeping embargoes should be dropped immediately.
Given the intense nature of discussions among council
members, and US Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent trip to the Middle
East, Annan said he hoped the 15-member body could agree "on certain
critical questions and to restore unity" before his next round of talks in
April or May.
He spoke to reporters after briefing the Security Council.
Syria-Iraq oil pipeline still flowing
Oil continues to flow from Iraq to Syria despite frequent
denials that the pipeline linking them is in use, industry and trade sources
said on Tuesday.
But they said the volume of crude moving between the two
countries had reduced.
A Syrian source told Reuters Iraqi crude oil was still
flowing through the pipeline, which was reopened last November after 18 years of
But the rate of pumping had slowed.
"It's not as much as 170,000 bpd," he said, but
declined to be drawn on a more precise volume.
Both Damascus and Baghdad have vigorously denied regular
shipments of Iraqi oil via the Iraq-Syria pipeline, which has not been approved
by the United Nations. US and UK officials have said they would likely okay its
use if asked.
"There is no pumping of oil from Iraq to Syria,"
Iraq Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf said at the United Nations on
Bahrain opens property market to foreigners
Bahrain has opened sectors of its property market to
foreigners as part of measures to liberalise the economy and attract investment
from abroad, the government announced in a decree published on Wednesday.
Certain areas, mostly in Manama but also tourism and
investment zones, were specified where non-Bahraini nationals can own land and
build both commercial and residential properties in the Gulf Arab archipelago.
Despite strong competition from Dubai in the United Arab
Emirates, Bahrain remains the Gulf's financial centre and the emir, Sheikh Hamad
bin Issa al-Khalifa, has pressed ahead with economic liberalisation since coming
to power in 1999.
D-8 FMs sign accord
Foreign ministers of D-8 have signed an agreement on
facilitating entry visa procedures for businessmen among the member states.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, who presided over a
meeting of the D-8 foreign ministers on Sunday, said the agreement "is
aimed at removing red tape in order to help business councils among the member
countries access D-8 markets."
Solidarity against rich states pledged
The leaders of eight Muslim developing nations with a
combined population of 800 million vowed on Sunday to take up the challenges of
globalization and join forces to face the developed states of the World Trade
Two of those leaders, host Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, called for a fair
distribution of the wealth generated by globalization and trade development at
the D-8 (D for development) summit.
"A truly globalized world has to be based on give and
take and a better understanding of the mutuality of interests" between
developed countries and developing ones, said the outgoing president of the
grouping, Sheikh Hasina.
"We want a win-win outcome of the fruits of
globalization", she said at the Cairo gathering.
Qatar Airways opts A380
Doha-based, Qatar Airways, became the 9th launch customer of
world's largest aircraft A380 when it ordered two planes with two options, a
communication received from Tolouse said on Thursday.
Besides acquiring the Airbus' all new very large airliner
Qatar Airways have placed firm orders for five of the highly successful A330-200
with three options.
Launched in December 2000, the twin-deck A380 with a seating
capacity of 550 passengers has todate won 66 firm commitments from nine
customers plus 54 options.
Qatar Airways plans to start a regular service to Iraq once
insurance problems are ironed out, joining a host of flights to Baghdad despite
the UN air embargo, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Tele Liban station goes off air
Tele Liban went off-air in the early hours of Thursday after
the Lebanese government decided to shut the loss-making television station and
dismiss its 523 employees.
The station, which was founded in 1959, became the first
casualty of a new policy by the debt-ridden government of Prime Minister Rafik
Al-Hariri to cut the size of the bureaucracy.
Hariri, who returned to office last year, had promised not to
sack government workers. He subsequently bowed to market pressure to control the
$23 billion debt by reducing government spending.
Tele Liban lost $33 million annually. It will cost the
government a similar amount to pay indemnity for its employees.
Iraq lifts trade boycott of Poland
Iraq on Wednesday lifted a boycott of Polish goods imposed
last week, saying Warsaw had "rectified" its stand on the deadly US
and British air strikes earlier this month.
"Iraq has annulled the boycott measures against imports
from Poland after the Warsaw government rectified its attitude" towards the
February raids, Commerce Minister Mohammad Mehdi Saleh announced, quoted by the
official news agency INA.
Egypt bonds quiet amid high interbank rates
The Egyptian bond market is expected to remain quiet this
week amid rising interbank rates and liquidity shortages, analysts said.
"I don't think the market adjusts according to supply,
demand and interbank, and this is due mainly to lack of liquidity," said
Moustafa Assal, head of fixed income at ABN AMRO Delta. Uncertainty still
lingers concerning the direction of interest rates and opaque economic policy,
analysts said. The median overnight interbank rate on Egypt's pound stood at
12-1/4 per cent on Monday in a short to moderate market, bankers said. The
interbank market is the main source of liquidity for banks.
National Bank of Dubai stock split approved
Shareholders of the National Bank of Dubai (NBD) approved a
ten-for-one stock split. The shareholders also approved the board's proposal to
maintain the cash dividend at 40 per cent. The bank saw net profit rising
marginally from Dh404.15 million to Dh408.99 million in 2000.
Although interest income rose from Dh1.3 billion to Dh1.63
billion, it was not reflected in the net interest income due to the high
interest expense of Dh1.11 billion the bank incurred compared to Dhs782 million
in 1999. The bank remains highly liquid as demonstrated by the proportion of
liquid assets to deposits, which stands at 86.86 per cent. While loans and
advances grew marginally from Dh6.86 billion to Dh6.98 billion, growth in
customer deposits was relatively high rising from Dh18.56 billion to Dh21.3
UK meat export ban to have minimal impact on UAE
Britain's ban on exports of all livestock and animal products
is unlikely to have much impact in the UAE where a ban on British beef and
cattle is already in place. The latest health scare to hit the UK food industry
involves an outbreak of foot and mouth disease among pigs. Pork products are
available in special supermarket sections for non-Muslims in the UAE, but most
pork products are imported from other European countries.
Khalid Sharif, head of the Food Control Section, said the
Municipality was evaluating the market stock of British pork and other meat
products, but did not expect supplies to be significant. "We can't issue a
statement until all the information has been obtained," he said. "But
the quantity of British meat, such as pork, that's imported into Dubai is quite