June 04 -
Iraq renews oil threats
Oil prices surged on Tuesday as Iraq rattled the
market by renewing its threat to choke off oil supplies if the U.N.
Security Council adopted so-called "smart sanctions."
Benchmark Brent crude last traded 70 cents higher
at $29.18 a barrel on London's International Petroleum Exchange, while
U.S. light crude last stood 27 cents up at $28.65 a barrel.
Iraq, which has been exporting about 2.1 million
barrels per day (bpd) under a U.N. oil-for-food program, has strongly
objected to proposals by the United States and Britain, dubbed
"smart sanctions," which aim to ease restrictions on
civilian imports while cracking down on Iraqi oil smuggling, estimated
at around 350,000 bpd.
Baghdad has vowed to cut all trade ties, including
oil sales, with any country that implements the new proposals.
"There is no forecasting in this. We are not
bluffing," an Iraqi source told Reuters, referring to the threat
to stop oil sales. "If the renewal (of the United Nations oil
sales deal) is carried out as normal — with no extra conditions —
Iraq will continue pumping."
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein told a cabinet
meeting on Monday, Iraq would accept nothing less than the
unconditional lifting of sanctions, imposed when Iraq invaded Kuwait
"Discussing such sorry proposals reflects in
itself a feeling of defeat (among the U.S. and Britain)," Hussein
"But the enemy, instead of taking the
relatively right path... and lift the sanctions against Iraq totally
and unconditionally, is looking for draft resolutions in the false
hope of overpowering Iraq's will."
The current phase of the U.N. oil-for-food deal,
which controls goods to and from Iraq, is due for renewal on June 3.
The Iraqi source declined to say whether oil
exports would stop flowing if the U.N. was to extend the phase for a
short period to allow deliberations over smart sanctions to continue.
S. Arabia cuts import tariff to 5% from 12%
In a major move to restructure its economy, Saudi
Arabia has announced slashing of its import tariff from the current 12
per cent to five per cent only. The decision was announced on Sunday
after a meeting of the Saudi Supreme Economic Council in Jeddah.
The protective tariff of a maximum of 20 per cent,
on items in which the industries in the kingdom have enough capacity
to meet the domestic demand, will however continue, so as to protect
the upcoming nascent industrial sector from undue competition.
The lowering of tariff comes at a point in time
when Saudi Arabia is making serious efforts to join the World Trading
Business circles believe the decision will go well
in ultimately paving the way for the Kingdom to join the WTO.
The move comes on the heels of a decision earlier
in the month aimed at easing trade regulations to allow imports of
goods from fellow Gulf Cooperation Council states under preferential
terms. On May 7 the Kingdom announced the decision that imports from
any GCC-based manufacturing house, in which at least there is a 40 per
cent local added value, will enjoy preferential tariffs in the
Kingdom. The decision is expected to boost trade among the GCC states.
The decision to lower the import tariffs is also
being viewed here as part of the campaign to attain a customs union
within the GCC. The major hurdle between the GCC states in achieving
customs union has been the varying level of import tariffs within the
The UAE was initially at the lowest end of import
tariffs of one per cent whereas some of the GCC states were levying an
import tariff of as high as 20 per cent on all the imports. As a part
of the GCC summit declaration, the customs union is set for March
2005, at the latest.
The world mourns the icon of Palestinian Jerusalem
The Palestinians lost the figurehead of their quest
to make Arab East Jerusalem their capital with the death on Thursday
of Faisal al-Husseini.
Husseini, 60, the top Palestinian official for
Jerusalem and a leading moderate in the long quest for a settlement
with Israel, died of a heart attack while on a visit to Kuwait.
"It is a great loss for the Palestinian
people," said Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, a fellow
founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization, on a visit to
"He has been my colleague in all stages of
life and since we were both very young."
The Palestinian Authority said: "The
Palestinian people today lost one of their most prominent leaders and
strugglers, who never gave up the fight despite exile, occupation or
US-British Iraqi sanctions proposals hit delay
With Russia balking, the United States and Britain
will be unable to meet their self-imposed deadline to overhaul
sanctions against Iraq by the end of the week, UN Security Council
diplomats said on Tuesday.
Instead the current UN oil-for-food humanitarian
program is expected to be extended for at least a month by the
15-member council before its expiration date on June 3. But the envoys
were not certain if anything would be added to the current plan or it
would be rolled over on the same terms.
France had floated some compromise proposals that
support the US-British draft in principle but water down several of
The French suggestions, obtained by Reuters, were
meant to bridge the gap between Moscow, which has objected to the
entire US-British draft resolution, and Washington and London, which
had wanted the Security Council to adopt it this week.
But Russia, a council source said, was "not
interested" in the French proposals either.
Assad calls to 'fight' for recovery of Arab lands
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called Monday for
a fight to liberate Arab territories occupied by Israel, after a
meeting with Pope Shenuda III, the patriarch of Eygpt's Christian Copt
community, the official SANA agency reported.
During the talks, Assad stressed the "need to
resist, be patient and fight for the recovery of (Arab) rights",
the agency said.
Pope Shenuda III said for his part that he wished
to maintain with the Syrian president, the "solid relations"
he had with his father and predecessor Hafez al-Assad, who died in
Peace talks froze between Syria and Israel in
January 2000. For their resumption, Damascus demands a total Israeli
withdrawal from the Golan Heights, occupied since 1967.
Israel sells stake in Egypt refinery plant
The Israeli partner in the joint venture Egyptian
oil refinery MIDOR has sold its 20 per cent stake to National Bank of
Egypt (NBE), an executive at the refinery said on Wednesday.
Asked about rumours that the state-owned NBE had
bought the stake late on Tuesday, the executive, who spoke on
condition of anonymity, said: "Yes, it's true."
An official at NBE, who asked not to be named, also
said the sale had been agreed, at least in principle. A second NBE
official said staff had been told not to comment on the issue.
A spokesman for the Israeli partner, Merhav, in Tel
Aviv confirmed only that the company is negotiating to sell its shares
in MIDOR (Middle East Oil Refinery) "Merhav confirms negotiations
are taking place with Egyptian business interests to sell its stake in
MIDOR. The company is studying the proposal and will make a decision
very soon," the spokesman said.
Baghdad trade fair
US companies have applied to exhibit in the annual
Baghdad trade fair, in which only one US businessman took part last
year, organisers said Sunday.
Fawzi Hussein Al-Zawer, head of the company
organising the fair, told the weekly newspaper Al-Rafidain that US
private firms had applied for the November 1-15 exhibition. He did not
give a number or name the firms.
One US businessman and a single Briton turned up
for the Baghdad international trade fair in 2000, cutting lone figures
among the more than 1,500 companies seeking contracts in sanctions-hit
Jordan's population is mostly young, unemployed
A staggering 73 per cent of Jordan's five million
inhabitants is under the age of 29 while youths aged 15-29 account for
34.4 per cent of the population and unemployment is their main
concern, a report released on Tuesday said.
The Jordan Human Development report 2000, which was
financed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and
Britain's department for international development, is the first of
its kind in Jordan.
Findings of the report show that unemployment is
among the key concerns of young people in Jordan, who are also wary of
"the contradiction of their roles in society and society's
perception of the young's place in society".
The board of Arab Bank has appointed Abdel Hamid
Shoman as CEO and deputy chairman of the financial institution which
is ranked as one of the largest in the Middle East, bank officials
said on Tuesday.
Prior to the decision, Abdel Hamid Shoman, 54, was
assistant general manager of the bank, a post he has occupied since
His father, Abdul Majeed Shoman, effectively ran
the bank for the last six decades and was made chairman in 1974 after
the death of his father, the bank's founder.
ABC to launch first Islamic credit card
Bahrain-based ABC Islamic Bank announced Tuesday
that it is to launch the first credit card conforming to strict
Islamic Sharia regulations.
"This card is considered the first Islamic
credit card that conforms with Sharia principles and is expected to be
well accepted by all customers who prefer to utilise a credit card
based on Sharia principles," general manager Mohammad BuQais said
in a statement.
BuQais said the card will be issued by the Islamic
Credit Card Co., which ABC Islamic Bank will "soon"
establish with a capital of five million dollars.
Interest is banned under the Islamic banking
system, as the religion forbids usury.
Egypt's maiden Eurobond
Rosier market conditions may soon prompt Egypt to
launch a long-awaited debut sovereign Eurobond.
Analysts say US rate cuts have lowered borrowing
costs for dollar-denominated bond issuers and investors' appetite for
emerging market debt is growing again after the Turkish devaluation in
February and Argentina's financial crisis.
For debt investors wishing to diversify, Egypt
offers exposure to the Middle East and Africa with an unusually high
credit rating at a time when investment-grade issues are rare.
Jordan's tourism industry
Jordan's tourism industry has taken a hit from the
eight-month Palestinian uprising, with revenue plummeting by 8.2 per
cent in 2001's first quarter, Tourism Minister Aqel Bletaji told the
daily, Al-Arab Al-Youm Monday.
Tourism revenues made up 12 per cent of Jordan's
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2000, up from 10 per cent in previous
Iraq looks to four-way free trade zone
Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria are to announce a free
trade accord covering all four Arab countries next month at a meeting
in Baghdad, Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammad Mehdi Saleh said Saturday.
"The announcement of a free trade zone between
Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Libya will be made during the meeting in
Baghdad of economy and trade ministers of the 10 members of the
Council of Arab Economic Unity," he said.
"The ministerial meeting will also examine the
means to strengthen Arab economic complementarity," said Saleh,
quoted by the official news agency INA.
The council, which is an organ of the Arab League,
is to meet in Baghdad on June 6-7 for the first time since the 1991
Gulf War to study how to revive a project to create a regional free
Embargo-hit Iraq has since January signed separate
free trade accords with Egypt, Syria and Tunisia.