Apr 23 -
Saudi seeks foreign investment
Oil power Saudi Arabia has renewed its call for foreign
investment in its vast refining sector. Saudi Aramco's refining assets can be
viewed as significant pre-investment platforms, supporting appropriate
refinery-based petrochemical and fuels facilities, Saudi Aramco President
Abdallah Jum'ah told a gas conference at Yanbu this week.
Many of Saudi Aramco's refineries and gas plants will be
building power and steam co-generation facilities to optimise fuel consumption,
thus offering further investment opportunities.
The kingdom invited foreign oil companies several years ago
to develop investment ideas for its refining system, which now boasts overall
capacity of just under two million barrels per day (bpd).
And the latest investment award has gone to Italian energy
group ENI. Its Snam engineering unit has won a contract to build a 200,000-bpd
gas condensate fractionation plant adjacent to the Ras Tanura refinery.
Industry sources said the kingdom has spent nearly $2 billion
overhauling its refining sector in a bid to meet domestic product demand, which
is growing at a rate of more than 2.5 per cent per year.
The east coast Ras Tanura facility was spruced up several
years ago with a $1.2 billion overhaul.
And capacity at the Red Sea export refinery at Rabigh was
lifted last year to 425,000 bpd from 400,000 bpd.
The bulk of the products churned out by the kingdom's plants
including its 50 per cent stakes in the Samref and Sasref joint ventures with
ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch/Shell, respectively is destined for the domestic
Industry sources reckon domestic consumption is now running
at close to one million bpd.
'Iran to export gas to UAE despite islands dispute'
Iran, the world's number two producer of natural gas, has
signed a two-billion dollar agreement to supply gas to the United Arab Emirates
despite the two nations' Gulf islands dispute , a press report said on Thursday.
The English-language Iran News, citing an "informed
source," said the National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC) had signed the agreement
with Crescent Petroleum, an Emirati company registered in Panama.
According to the source, the gas will be supplied from Iran's
offshore Salman field in the Gulf before being transported through a pipeline to
the Mobarak platform near the Abu Mussa island where it will be pressurised and
sent to northern Emirates and Dubai via two pipelines.
UAE's agreement for the purchase of gas from an Iranian field
shared by Abu Dhabi, is a clear indication of the improving relations between
the Islamic republic of Iran and the United Arab Emirates, the daily said.
Crescent Petroleum reportedly plans to sell the Iranian gas
to the UAE ministry of power and electricity to be used in power plants in
northern Emirates as well as Dubai, it said.
Iran has an estimated 20,000 billion cubic metres (700,000
billion cubic feet) in gas reserves, and this deal would be the first time
Tehran has agreed to sell gas to the Persian Gulf littoral states, the daily
But on Wednesdsay, a member of the Iranian parliament's
national security committee called for a re-evaluation of trade ties with the
UAE because of the two nations' dispute over the Gulf isles.
Mohammad-Hossein Abu-Torabi said Tehran should reconsider its
estimated two billion dollars in direct and indirect annual trade with Abu Dhabi
if the UAE persists on continuing such an unfriendly approach.
He accused the Emirates of "irrational"
international lobbying to put forward its claims to Abu Musa as well as the
Greater and Lesser Tunbs, three strategic Persian Gulf isles held by Iran since
Qatar speeding up work on gas pipeline projects
Qatar with one of the largest gas reserves in the world is
currently gearing up to export gas through pipelines within the next two to
three years and Pakistan is an important part of these gas export initiatives.
Qatar has so far been exporting gas in liquefied form only.
Work is already underway on two gas pipeline projects to
deliver gas to the neighbouring countries. Of these, one is the Dolphin project
being promoted by the UAE Offsets Group (UOG) in association with Total FinaElf
of France and Enron Corporation of the US. They plan to supply the country's
north field gas to the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and possibly Oman, in
the first phase.
There are indications that the UOG is seriously thinking to
extend the pipeline to include Pakistan in the loop in the next phase of the
project. There have been reports that none else than Sheikh Zayed, the UAE
President, insisted on the inclusion of Pakistan in this pipeline project.
Like the trees we die standing
Over 52 years have passed since Khan Yunis refugee camp was
founded as "temporary shelter" for Palestinian refugees. The home of
over 60,000 refugees is now one of the most crowded spots on earth. For a
stranger to wander through its narrow alleyways and makeshift houses, by the
mounting garbage piles and impoverished streets and markets, one would then
realize that human misery is not an abstract concept, but a living reality.
But beyond the misery and despair, human triumph stands,
narrating a story of a dignified nation, who learned to survive despite repeated
massacres, and fought to rebuild what the invaders destroyed.
As I followed the TV screen while a reporter's camera scanned
the horrifying damage inflicted by Israeli bombs and bulldozers on the sleeping
camp, many thoughts crossed my mind, memories of past years and images of
history I cannot dare forget.
Iran hopes for more Gulf state security pacts
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami hopes a new security
agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia will lead to similar pacts with other
Gulf Arab states, a Saudi newspaper reported on Thursday.
Iran and Saudi Arabia signed the security accord on Tuesday,
in a fresh sign of warming relations between the Gulf neighbours after years of
"I hope the agreement marks the first step towards a
general and comprehensive security agreement between the countries of the
region, so that these states can live in peace," Khatami told Saudi
Arabia's Arabic-language Al-Watan newspaper.
Riyadh says the pact with Tehran aims to fight crime,
terrorism and drug trafficking and should not be seen as a defence pact.
Non-Arab Iran opposes the deployment of U.S. and Western
forces in the region and is keen to sign defence agreements with its Arab
neighbours. But Gulf Arabstates, which look to the West for military support,
have declined Iran's offer.
Qatar, Bahrain ease travel rules
Qatar and Bahrain have agreed to ease travel regulations for
their citizens and study proposals for a causeway joining the two Gulf Arab
states, newspapers said on Wednesday.
A joint committee, holding its first meeting after the World
Court resolved a territorial dispute last month, also asked energy officials to
explore the possibility of supplying Qatari gas to Bahrain, the newspapers said.
Bahrain and Qatar agreed to allow their citizens to travel
between their countries using just identity cards. A communique said the states
had decided to complete within 10 months a feasibility study into a causeway
linking the two states across Gulf waters.
The Hague-based International Court of Justice ended the
long-standing territorial dispute, endorsing Bahrain's sovereignty over the
Hawar islands and awarding two minor islands and a disputed town to Qatar.
Israeli warplanes overfly south Lebanon
Israeli warplanes flew over south Lebanon Thursday for the
fourth consecutive day, said Lebanese security sources.
The planes patrolled Israel's former security zone in south
Lebanon and the occupied Shebaa Farms territory on the Israeli and Lebanese
border, the sources said.
On Monday, Israeli jets broke the sound barrier over Beirut
and southern regions, following an overnight air strike on a Syrian army radar
station in eastern Lebanon that left at least one Syrian soldier killed and four
The raid came after an Israeli soldier was killed in an
attack by Hizbollah on Saturday in the Shebaa Farms, occupied by Israel from
Syria 1967 and now claimed by Lebanon.
Kuwait to facilitate business visa
Kuwait aims to facilitate business visas as part of its
economic reform programme and to boost foreign investment. Sources told Arabic
daily Al-Anba that Commerce and Industry Minister Salah Khorshed was this week
scheduled to meet Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Khalid Al Sabah to formulate
the procedure and eliminate the obstacles hindering the issue of business visas.
The two ministers would discuss the facilities required to
attract foreign businessmen to Kuwait's free-trade zone by eliminating
bureaucracy so as to issue such visas in shortest possible time.
The Kuwaiti cabinet had approved a draft law on foreign
investment in June 1999, in a bid to boost investment, but still it awaits
As per draft law, investment projects can be exempted from
income tax and other taxes for a period of 10 years, as well as be allotted land
and real estate required for the investment.
US expects new Iraq policy
US Assistant Secretary of State Edward Walker said on
Wednesday he expected progress by June on a new international policy towards
Iraq that focuses on easing civilian sanctions while reinforcing controls on
"Our objective is to do away with the sanctions regime
and replace it with controls over weapons of mass destruction and military
Walker told reporters after meeting Jordanian Prime Minister
Ali Abu Al-Ragheb on the first leg of a tour of Iraq's neighbours.
Bahrain's emir reshuffles government
Bahrain's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa, reshuffled
the government on Tuesday, bringing in five new faces but leaving the key posts
unchanged, the official news agency GNA reported.
The reshuffle follows a mid-February referendum in which a
national charter for democratic reforms, notably the restoration of parliament
after a 26-year break and the setting up of a constitutional monarchy, won a
The foreign, defence, oil and interior portfolios remained in
the same hands, while Nabil al-Hamer, chairman of the Al-Ayam press group, took
over as information minister and Jassem Al-Ghatam as education minister.
Qatar comes to defence of Lebanese pound
Qatar joined a Gulf Arab consortium in defending the Lebanese
pound by pledging to deposit $60 million with Banque du Liban, local newspapers
said on Wednesday.
The Qatari assistance brings Arab deposits with the central
bank to a little over $1 billion, which form a significant part of gross foreign
reserves. Newspaper reports said Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri was informed of
the Qatari decision during a current trip to Qatar. Hariri has been touring Arab
states to seek aid to bolster the pound, which has been under relentless
pressure from deteriorating public finances and a volatile front with Israel.
Iraq ready to sell special price crude to Lebanon
Iraq confirmed on Monday its willingness to sell crude oil to
Lebanon at preferential prices, in an agreement similar to one concluded between
Baghdad and Amman.
"Iraq has offered to provide Lebanon with crude (oil) at
reduced prices," said parliament speaker Saadun Hammadi during a visit by a
Lebanese parliamentary delegation to the Iraqi capital.
Hammadi added that Baghdad was "ready to grant Beirut
credit to pay its oil bill."
Oman offers gas exports to UAE
Oman has offered to export natural gas to neighbouring United
Arab Emirates (UAE), Omani Oil Minister Mohammad bin Hamad Al-Rohmi said in an
interview published on Sunday.
"In principle, we are ready to sign a heads of
agreement. Now we are awaiting a response from the UAE government," Romhi
told the weekly Middle East Economic Digest, adding that negotiations over the
proposed sale were "quite advanced".
He stressed that any deal would be on a short-term basis for
Oman, which last year launched exports of liquefied natural
gas to Asia, signed a memorandum of understanding with the UAE`s Offsets Group
in June 1999 to import Qatari gas via the Emirates under a multi-billion-dollar
project known as Dolphin.
"Exporting gas (to the UAE) will make sense as it will
create a network, which will allow gas to come in and out. I have always said
there is nothing wrong with either importing or exporting gas," said Romhi.
Oil prices expected to keep rising
Iran said Saturday it expects oil prices to continue pushing
upward in the coming months, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Oil Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh, cited by IRNA, said the
situation on the market was not a cause for concern with prices last week
hitting two-month highs as worries over shortages and technical buying gave the
market a lift.
"Despite OPEC production cuts that took effect April 1,
demand is still less than supply," Zanganeh said. "In the third
quarter, supply will be less than demand."
He also stressed that OPEC was determined to maintain its
price-band mechanism, which automatically triggers increases or cuts in
production if prices go outside the range of 22-28 dollars per barrel.
Iran is the second-largest producer in OPEC after Saudi
Arabia with a daily ouptut approaching four million barrels per day (bpd).
EIB, Arab funds grant Egypt $200 m for new power
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has given Egypt 75 million
euros (70 million dollars) for the construction of a 750,000 kilowatt power
plant, Egyptian Electricity Minister Ali al-Saidi was quoted as saying Friday by
the official agency MENA.
Saidi also announced that the Kuwait-based Arab Fund for
Economic and Social Development and the Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank
agreed to donate 131 million dollars for the same project.