June 11 -
Khatami heading for sweeping victory
Iran's President Mohammad Khatami was headed for a
landslide re-election victory on Friday, but powerful conservatives
wasted little time in accusing his reformist allies of extensive
All indications pointed to a huge Khatami win late
in the evening when the conservative-led Guardians Council, which has
the power to reject any result, announced widespread problems with the
balloting. "There were numerous irregularities which went against
the interests of the people," Council spokesman Gholamhossein
Elham said in an interview with state television. "There was
notably the loss of many voting slips." But the interior
ministry, which supervises the elections and is headed by a close ally
of the president, swiftly denied the charges — setting up what may
well be the latest of Khatami's serious showdowns with his
"Until now, we have received no information on
these so-called irregularities," ministry election official Ali
Mohaghar said, warning against "misinformation aimed at
disturbing public opinion".
The interior ministry official who had originally
been set to supervise Friday's election was banned from holding public
office after being convicted of vote-rigging in last year's
parliamentary polls, won by reformists. The Guardians Council, which
has used its veto power to block key parts of his reform agenda,
annulled a number of results in that election.
The main pro-reform party, led by Khatami's
brother, said its exit polls showed the president cruising to more
than 75 per cent of the votes cast. Although final results were not
due until Saturday, Mohammad-Reza Khatami, head of the Islamic Iran
Participation Front, said the expected mandate would make his
brother's second-term government "much more solid".
OPEC output unchanged
OPEC members have informally agreed to leave
official oil output unchanged following Iraq's suspension of exports.
But the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Countries delegates also agreed to meet again for an emergency session
on July 3 to decide how best to respond to Iraq's stoppage of
U.N.-administered crude sales.
"OPEC and the market needs time to assess if
Iraq's decision will cause a crisis," Reuters quoted Qatari Oil
Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah saying following two hours of talks in
Vienna on Tuesday.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi indicated that OPEC
would probably need to take action and add to production if the outage
lasted for the month that Iraq is threatening.
"We do not know what Iraq's game plan
is," Reuters reported Naimi saying. "Will this last a day, a
week, a month? We don't know what the game plan is."
But with output at 24.2 million barrels daily, OPEC
ministers have said ample crude inventories and stable prices mean
there is no need to panic over Baghdad's decision.
Iraq halted its 2.1 million barrels in daily oil
sales on Monday as a protest against the U.N. Security Council's
decision to extend by one month, instead of the usual six, the
programme under which Iraq can sell oil.
OPEC members produces 40 per cent of the world's
Although Iraq belongs to OPEC, it does not
participate in production agreements with the group's other 10
Iraq's OPEC representative, Taha Humud Musa, was
quoted by Reuters as saying supplies would stay on hold for at least
the duration of the extension to early July.
Non-OPEC member Russia said on Tuesday that it
would not boost oil exports in response to Iraq's cut, saying OPEC
could pick up the slack.
Jordan, Egypt to sign gas pipeline deal
Jordan and Egypt will sign on Tuesday a final
agreement to build a pipeline to carry Egyptian natural gas to Jordan,
the first phase of a distribution project that would cover Lebanon,
Syria and Turkey, officials said on Monday.
They said the accord would be signed at the end of
a two-day meeting of the Jordanian-Egyptian higher committee due to
start on Monday in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
The committee, headed by the Egyptian Prime
Minister Atef Obeid and his Jordanian opposite number Ali Abu Al-Ragheb,
is scheduled to discuss bilateral cooperation in various fields,
including natural gas.
On Sunday, the Egyptian cabinet approved a plan to
export Egyptian gas via the pipeline for 30 years starting from 2003,
Egypt's Information Minister Safwat el-Sherif said in Cairo.
Arab Bourse Report
Lebanon's bourse index soared 7.8 per cent and
Kuwait's KSE became the year's best performer in a week ofgains on
most Arab stock markets, Bakheet Financial Advisors (BFA) reported
Lebanon's BLOM advanced 7.8 per cent to 525.58
Another high-flier was the KSE index which gained
1.7 per cent to close the week on 1,575.20 points, up 16.8 per cent
since year start, the best performance among Arab bourses in 2001.
Egypt's Hermes Financial Index, in contrast, fell
1.8 per cent to 6,537.40 points, weighed down by a 6.6 per cent
decline in MobiNil. The index has slumped 14.7 per cent since the
start of the year.
In Saudi Arabia, the NCFEI index closed the week
down 1.3 per cent amid a market correction in the electricity sector
and a profits plunge by most blue chips, BFA said. The all-shares
index fell to 2,352.51 points.
Bahrain's BSE index, driven by gains in the banking
sector, was up 1.4 per cent, closing on 1,721.03 points.
Qatar rose 1.3 per cent to 244.51 points,
accumulating an increase of 15.7 per cent since year start.
The other six Arab bourses in the review moved less
than one per cent from the previous week.
Oman's MSM weakened 0.8 per cent to 165.92 points,
and the Al-Quds (Jerusalem) index of the Palestinian territories by
0.5 per cent to 168.57 points.
The Al-Quds index, hit by the ongoing
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has dropped 18.8 this year.
Jordan's ASE index inched up 0.6 per cent to close
on 141.08 points, while Morocco's CSE index closed on 658.48 points,
up 0.2 per cent, and the NBAD index in the Emirates was barely
changed, closing on 2,507.25 points, up 0.1 per cent.
Unchanged was the Tunindex in Tunisia that stayed
at 1,385.47 points.
World oil prices stabilize
Oil prices simmered but came off the boil on Monday
after OPEC said it was ready to make up any shortfall left by Iraq's
decision to halt exports in protest at US-British efforts to impose
Benchmark Brent North Sea crude for July delivery
was selling for 29.17 dollars a barrel, from 29.07 dollars on Friday
evening. In New York, light sweet crude July futures gained 25 cents
to 28.18 dollars a barrel in early trade. Markets took comfort from
the comments of energy chiefs from the Organisation of Petroleum
Exporting Countries (OPEC) arriving in Vienna for a ministerial
meeting starting Tuesday.
Several OPEC ministers reassured consumers they
would plug the gap left by Iraq if needed. But OPEC President Chakib
Khelil said the oil cartel would not increase production at Tuesday's
Finger on trigger: Israel
Israel and the Palestinians played a tense waiting
game on Sunday after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat pledged a
ceasefire following the deadliest suicide bombing in years, but
militants vowed to pursue the intifada, while Israeli radio warned
strikes had been ordered.
"Our finger is on the trigger to ensure the
security of the citizens of Israel," Israeli Defence Minister
Binyamin Ben Eliezer warned.
That was highlighted by an Israeli public radio
report, saying the government had ordered strikes against Palestinian
extremists responsible for most anti-Israeli bombings in recent years,
and that the Palestinian Authority itself may also be targeted.
"The government has ordered the army to take action against
members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations, and such
operations are already underway," Israeli public radio reported.
The report followed meetings chaired by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
with his inner security cabinet and the full government to weigh the
response to Friday night's attack at a beachside nightclub in Tel Aviv
that killed 19 young people plus the bomber.
Syrian vice-president collapses in Lebanon
Syrian Vice-President Abdel Halim Khaddam collapsed
on Sunday while making a speech in Lebanon broadcast live on
television, but Lebanese officials later said he had only suffered
indigestion and would soon leave hospital.
"Excuse me, I cannot carry on," Khaddam
said before sliding to the floor while addressing tens of thousands of
people at a rally. Television viewers saw the 68-year-old
vice-president fall to the floor and he was rushed to hospital in the
northern port city of Tripoli.
Lebanese and Syrian state television said he was in
satisfactory condition, after earlier reports that he had suffered
CIA chief set for talks
CIA chief George Tenet was due to hold separate
meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders Thursday, facing a tough
task to bolster a tenuous Middle East truce as sporadic violence
flared on the ground.
"The goal ... is to start serious discussion
at the security level about how to make sure the ceasefire
continues," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told
reporters in Washington.
Tenet, whose mission signals a greater US role in
the Middle East under a previously reticent President George W. Bush,
is to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader
Yasser Arafat later Thursday, officials on both sides said.
Israel, which has voiced skeptic about Arafat's
ceasefire call on Saturday, said it wants Tenet to push for a
"complete halt to violence" and for the jailing of
Palestinian activists behind anti-Israeli attacks.
"At present we would have to give Mr. Arafat a
failing grade on his performance," Sharon aide Dore Gold told.
Mubarak holds talks with Tenet
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak held talks on
Wednesday with CIA Director George Tenet on the rising tensions in the
Middle East, security sources said.
The meeting came at the start of a tour of the
region by Tenet aimed at trying to restore security cooperation
between Israel and Palestinians after eight months of escalating
Neither Mubarak nor Tenet gave any statement after
their talks, sources said.
US officials announced on Tuesday that Tenet would
visit Israel, several Arab countries and possibly the Palestinian
territories, but declined to give his exact itinerary.
Iraq wants UN resolution that lifts embargo
Iraq warned Wednesday it would not accept any UN
Security Council resolution that did not allow for a comprehensive and
unconditional lifting of the crippling 11-year-old embargo.
"Iraq refuses any resolution the Security
Council might adopt, unanimously or by majority, in whatever form it
may be, if it does not include a lifting of the embargo, without
restrictions and conditions," Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan
Ramadan was talking to reporters after opening a
ministerial meeting of the Arab Economic Union, the first of its kind
to take place in Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War.
Saudi king swears in new advisory council
Saudi Arabia's King Fahd swore in on Monday the 120
members of the Shura consultative council, the kingdom's only
representative body which he expanded last month.
The official Saudi Press Agency said the new
all-male council, which has no legislative powers, took an oath before
the monarch in the port city of Jeddah.
The new council, which includes retired senior
officers, professionals and academics, will again be led by the
Islamist Sheikh Mohammad Ibrahim bin Jubair, a former justice
It replaces a 90-member council which ended its
four-year term this year.
King Fahd appointed 30 new members in May to the
Shura Council, which was set up in 1993 to bring about gradual popular
representation as part of long-awaited political reforms.
The expansion was the second in the council's
MPs block Kuwait Airways budget over losses
Kuwaiti MPs, angered over decade-long sustained
losses by Kuwait Airways and reports of mismanagement, Tuesday blocked
the carrier's budget for the fiscal year which started April 1.
Kuwait Airways has projected a deficit of 103.6
million dollars for the 2001-2002 fiscal year to go with hundreds of
millions of dollars of accumulated losses since the 1990 Iraqi
invasion of the emirate.
Only 19 MPs voted for the budget, well short of the
necessary 32, while 18 voted against and six abstained.
Spending at the airline is estimated at 761.6
million dollars, while revenues are projected at 658 million dollars.
Dubai pardons customs officials in graft case
Dubai's deputy ruler Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum
on Monday pardoned seven customs officials, including the former
chairman of the World Customs Organisation, who were sentenced for
graft in April.
The United Arab Emirates official news agency said
Sheikh Mohammad, who is also defence minister, issued the amnesty to
coincide with Prophet Mohammad's birthday and after the men sent him a
plea for mercy.
"Those involved in the customs graft case have
been pardoned on this holy occasion and because they have shown that
they are aware of the crime that they committed," the agency
In April Dubai, one of seven emirates that make up
the UAE, sentenced former customs chief Obaid Saqr Busit and two top
aides for illegally amassing millions of dirhams (dollars).
Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria sign free-trade accord
Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya on Thursday signed a
joint free-trade accord between the four countries, an Iraqi official
The accord was sealed by ministers or
representatives from the four countries taking part in the ministerial
meeting of the Arab Economic Union (AEU) in Baghdad, the official
"It is an important step on the way to
establishing a common Arab market," said AEU secretary general
Ahmad al-Juili, who called on Arab countries to join the accord.
Iraq has already signed bilateral free-trade
accords with Egypt, Syria and Tunisia, despite being under crippling
sanctions since invading Kuwait in 1990.
Kuwait to slice foreign firms' tax to 25%
OPEC member Kuwait has decided to move ahead with a
key component of a major economic reform and liberalisation programme,
proposing a cut in tax on foreign firms to a maximum 25 per cent from
a current 55 per cent ceiling.
Finance Minister Youssef Al-Ibrahim told Reuters on
Monday that the governmemt agreed on the cut during its weekly meeting
on Sunday. The amendment to the tax law has yet to be sent to
parliament for approval.
Parliament is due to start its long summer recess
at the end of this month. Over the past year, Kuwait has been pushing
ahead with draft laws and amendments to reform the economy and
encourage foreign investors into the small country.
The local stock market, one of the largest and
liveliest in the Arab world is now open for trading by all foreigners.
Iraq resumes pumping oil to Turkey
Iraq resumed pumping oil to Turkey's Mediterranean
port of Ceyhan on Sunday after a one-day halt, a senior Turkish energy
"The flow resumed this morning, but we do not
know how long it would continue," Gokhan Yardim, the head of the
state gas and oil company BOTAS said.
Iraq turned off the taps of the pipeline early
Saturday, hours before announcing that it would halt exports under a
UN oil-for-food programme on Monday.
Baghdad said the cut was due to a shortfall in
production, but made no explanation to Turkish authorities about why
the flow resumed on Sunday, Yardim said.
Iraq announced the suspension a day after the UN
Security Council extended the program by one month to gain time to
modify the 11-year-old embargo on Iraq and outline the so-called
"smart" sanctions, to which Baghdad is vehemently opposed.
Canon starts up Jebel Ali logistics hub free zone
The first consignment of Canon goods has arrived at
the CWT-SML Logistics warehouse in the Jebel Ali Free Zone today: a
milestone in Canon Middle Eastís ongoing success story in this region
to improve availability of product for its customers.
Previously, Canon was represented in the Middle
East only through a marketing and sales support presence, which
changed in March when Canon Middle East ZZ-LLC was established as a
full-fledged regional subsidiary.