June 18 -
Oil prices surge towards $30 on Mideast fears
Oil prices welled up towards 30 dollars a barrel on
Monday after a powerful Saudi Arabian prince warned that the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict was threatening to spread to other
The price of Brent North Sea crude for July
delivery rose to 29.95 dollars a barrel in London dealing, from 29.44
at the close on Friday.
In New York a barrel of light sweet crude for July
delivery gained 58 cents to 28.33 dollars, as floods in Texas raised a
question over supply.
But uppermost in dealers' mind were the words of
caution from Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdallah Ben Abdel Aziz, who
raised the spectre of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute drawing in
neighbouring Arab oil-producing states.
"We are all sitting on a powder keg, which
could explode at any moment," he said in an interview with the
Monday edition of the weekly Der Spiegel. "Such a war would not
only affect Israel and the Arab states, but would be felt in many
other parts of the world," he said.
"The price of blood being spilt in the region
is reaching a level we cannot tolerate much longer," the Saudi
Arabian crown prince said.
More than 600 people have been killed since a
Palestinian uprising erupted last autumn. The outbreak of violence in
September helped send oil prices to levels not seen since the 1990
Oil market analysts said that the comments were
clearly directed at a foreign audience and should be taken as a
warning that even moderate Arab nations would not sit on the fence
"Clearly patience is running out in the Arab
world and this comment re-established a link between Middle East
tensions and the oil prices," said Lawrence Eagles, a commodities
analyst with the GNI brokerage.
Arafat accepts CIA's truce plan
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and CIA chief
George Tenet struck an agreement Wednesday on Tenet's plan for putting
in place a lasting ceasefire and Middle East peace negotiations, a
Palestinian official said.
"President Yasser Arafat and George Tenet
arrived at an agreement on the US proposal on the basis of
recommendations from the Mitchell report," Arafat advisor Nabil
Abu Rudeina told AFP in the West Bank town of Ramallah where the
meeting was held. He gave no further details.
Another Palestinian official, speaking on condition
of anonymity, said Arafat had accepted all but a few points in the
plan to end eight months of deadly Israeli attacks.
"The United States is pleased that a work plan
has been accepted by both sides," a senior State Department
official in Washington told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"Steps will be taken immediately to implement
the work plan," the official said, noting Tenet, who had
originally intended to return to Washington on Tuesday, would remain
in the region until at least Wednesday for possible further talks.
Israel said Tuesday it accepted the Central
Intelligence Agency chief's plan, which is aimed at forging a joint
Israeli-Palestinian truce. The two sides have already declared
That would allow implementation of a series of
confidence-building measures proposed last month by the US-led
Mitchell commission aimed at returning the two sides to the
Tenet held the last-minute talks with Arafat before
his planned return to the United States after days of coaxing the two
sides into security talks without concrete results.
The Palestinian official, speaking on condition of
anonymity, said Tenet had told Arafat that, if he left the region
without agreement, "that could be seen as a green light for air
attacks on Palestinian targets."
Iran to invest half of oil surplus in private
Iran will invest three billion dollars, half of
last year's surplus oil revenue, in the country's private sector,
central bank governor Mohsen Nourbakhsh said Wednesday.
"Fifty per cent of the revenues will be
invested in the private sector, and the rest will be saved to support
projects in the annual national budget in the case of a fall in oil
prices," Nourbakhsh was quoted as saying by the official IRNA
The special surplus fund was created in March, with
the 6 billion dollars in surplus revenues deposited in the central
bank, Nourbakhsh said. He did not say where in the private sector the
government would invest.
Nourbakhsh added that Iran's banking system was
"to play an active role in encouraging the private sector."
No private banks exist in Iran, but private investment companies do
invest in different projects throughout the country.
Bahrain seeks $650 mln to modernise refinery
Bahrain Petroleum Co. (Bapco) said Saturday it is
to hold talks with 15 foreign and local banks to raise 650 million
dollars in financing for a refinery modernisation aimed at adapting to
Bapco officials, quoted by Bahrain's GNA news
agency, said the funding would be raised by the end of 2001 and the
project completed by 2004. The talks are to be held in June and July.
Bahrain produces around 40,000 barrels per day
(bpd) of oil and receives the entire output of 140,000 bpd from an
offshore field shared with Saudi Arabia. It exports only refined
products, not crude.
The modernisation project will upgrade Bapco's low-sulphur
fuel oil and fluid catalytic cracking sectors, which now use
30-year-old pneumatic technology, with state-of-the-art electronics.
The largest chunk of the investment will go toward
lowering sulphur content to 0.05 per cent from 0.75-1.0 per cent.
The state-owned refinery was built in 1963 and its
current capacity is 250,000 bpd. More than 90 per cent of its products
are exported to Asia or other Gulf states.
World Bank approve $45 mln credit for Yemen
The World Bank approved a 40-year, 45
million-dollar credit for Yemen aimed at helping the country build and
maintain a road network. "This project will support the
government of Yemen's recently initiated decentralization process, as
well as complementing and enhancing several community-based programs
in Yemen, such as the Social Fund Project and the Public Works
Project," the bank said in a statement. It said the credit will
reduce the isolation of Yemen's rural population by ensuring that
rural people have reliable access through the local, regional and
national road networks.
Khatami ally returned as speaker
Iran's reformist-dominated parliament on Monday
re-elected at its head two allies of President Mohammad Khatami. Mehdi
Karubi, 64, was re-elected Majlis speaker, while Mohammad Reza Khatami,
the president's brother who heads the nation's main reformist party,
the Islamic Iran Participation Front, was re-elected as his deputy.
Mr Karubi secured 215 votes out of 238. Mr Reza,
41, was re-elected deputy parliament speaker with 157 votes.
Largest Islamic bank established
A Kuwaiti firm and a major Saudi Arabian group
agreed to merge their banking and investment units to create one of
the area's largest Islamic banking entities.
Saudi Arabian giant Dallah Albaraka Group (DBG) and
The International Investor said in a joint statement received on
Sunday that a memorandum of understanding was reached for a
"ground-breaking $300-plus million deal".
The statement gave few details of the deal, but
said it aims to "combine DBG's assets in a number of banking
subsidiaries with TII.
"The deal will create the first Islamic
financial services group to offer a full range of investment and
retail banking services to clients across the Middle East and
Islamic trade fair opens in Jeddah
The first Islamic Trade Fair got underway on
Saturday with calls to boost intra-Islamic trade and forge a common
and united stand to face the onslaught of globalisation.
Governor of Makkah, Prince Abdul Majeed,
inaugurated the fair. With more than 40 countries participating in the
fair, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in his opening remarks,
read out on his behalf by the Makkah Governor Prince Abdul Majeed,
said: "In the age of globalisation where competition is very
fierce, survival will be for the fittest. Those who unite in economic
blocks and prepare for the challenges will prevail."
The Qatari press on Wednesday hailed Bahrain's
lifting of the state of alert on the Hawar Islands, which were at the
center of a long-standing territorial dispute, as a sign of bilateral
"This move is witness to the desire of the two
countries to turn the page of the past and begin a new era of
cooperation," Qatar's Al-Sharq newspaper said.
Saddam digs in for another showdown with US
Saddam Hussein is digging in for another showdown
with the United Nations over Anglo-American plans to revamp the
11-year-old sanctions against Iraq.
Western diplomats in the Middle East say the Iraqi
president appears determined to pursue his crusade to get sanctions
lifted, even if it means a prolonged halt of Iraqi oil exports and an
eventual military confrontation with the United States.
After ordering a halt to most oil exports earlier
this month, Saddam is closely watching the debate among the UN
Security Council's permanent members over the proposed changes to
sanctions imposed against Baghdad after its invasion of Kuwait in
Gulf Arabs look to Khatami to woo 'Great Satan'
Iran's re-election of President Mohammad Khatami
will help bolster ties with Gulf Arab states but the moderate leader
must act on his reformist intentions to turn his wary neighbors into
Leaders from oil kingpin Saudi Arabia to the tiny
island state of Bahrain have congratulated the moderate Khatami on his
landslide victory, indicating they want to put an end to Iran's
historical status as the "demon of the Gulf".
But analysts say a breakthrough in relations hinges
on an improvement in Iran's ties with the Gulf states' ally, the
United States, and the resolution of a dispute over three strategic
islands Gulf Arabs say Iran has seized from the United Arab Emirates.
"The whole region is much more relaxed that a
regime that is more liberal and open is now in Iran," said Nayef
Obeid, analyst at the UAE-based Sheikh Zaid Center for Strategic
"The Gulf is looking to Khatami to live up to
his image as a reformist and to improve ties but they will be
primarily looking for actions and not words on these two fronts,"
he told Reuters.
Lebanon tears up GSM operators' contracts
The two GSM operators in Lebanon learned Tuesday
that the government was tearing up their contracts half-way through in
order to auction off its lucrative cellphone licences.
The government's privatisation committee said in a
statement it "has decided to task the telecommunications minister
with ending the contracts of these two companies." The companies,
Cellis, which is controlled by France Telecom, and LibanCell, which
has Finland's Sonera as a 14-per cent stakeholder, are to be
compensated, it said. The contracts will be completely void in
No reason was given for the decision, but a
minister, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the government
wanted to end a nagging dispute between the companies and the state
over exploitation fees.
The two companies were given the contracts to
operate the GSM network in 1994. The agreements were to run for 12
Biggest Bromine Investment
Jordan Bromine Company Limited (JBC), (Private Free
Zone) has broken the ground on its bromine and derivatives facilities
in Safi, Jordan with the launching of a $100 mln investment project.
Site development and procurement as well as
construction activities are underway for the project, company sources
Kuwaiti stocks hit 28-month high
The Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE) surged three per
cent to close the week Wednesday at a 28-month high despite
profit-taking on the back of renewed investor confidence, analysts
The KSE index closed at 1,648.1 points, up 22.2 per
cent on the year, but still down 41.9 per cent on its all-time high of
Iraq oil still flowing to Syria
Iraq is maintaining illicit oil sales to Syria to
secure vital hard currency despite Baghdad's vow to cut off most
exports in its latest showdown with the United Nations over sanctions,
industry sources said on Monday.
The sources said Syria was still exporting oil at a
higher rate, evidence that it continues to receive extra supplies from
Iraq via a recently refurbished pipeline.
"There are no signs that Syria is selling less
oil to its customers. They have not notified customers of any real
cuts," said one industry source.
"We have not received a telex from Syria
saying there is less oil available. They are still getting oil from
Iraq," said another.
Diplomats also said that major producer Iraq was
still delivering crude to neighbour Syria.
The industry sources said Iraq currently was
probably delivering about 100,000-150,000 barrels per day to Syria.
Aqaba city development
Jordan has shortlisted six global firms in the
first phase of a project to choose a private property developer to
manage and run the port of Aqaba's Special Economic Zone (SEZ),
officials said on Sunday.
The winner picked from a shortlist of six firms
chosen from an original 13 applicants would to be nominated by
mid-September to manage the transformation of Aqaba into a first class
regional investment hub, the officials said.
The Bahrain-based First Islamic Investment Bank (FIIB)
announced Sunday it has signed an agreement to acquire an "major
stake" in the US group Cirrus Industries Inc.
In a statement published in Manama, FIIB chairman
Atif Abdel Malek estimated the value of the deal between the Islamic
bank and Cirrus, which specialises in the manfacture of private jets,
at around 133 million dollars (156 million euros).
Iraq exploits three new oilfields in south
Iraq's Southern Petroleum Company (SPC) announced
Sunday that despite the embargo, it was exploiting three new oilfields
in the south, where it hoped to double output to 400,000 barrels per
"SPC has developed three new deposits with a
current production of 200,000 bpd, which is half of the production
capacity we will reach next year," SPC chairman Abdel Beri Mahmud
Shaukat said, quoted by the Al-Basra weekly.
He said the Mina Al-Baqr terminal in southern Iraq
now had a crude pumping capacity of around 1.4 million bpd,
"despite the obstacles raised by the United States and Britain
about the development of this terminal." Iraq had used the Mina
Al-Baqr terminal and one at the Turkish port of Ceyhan for its oil
exports, as part of the UN's oil-for-food programme, thus violating
the embargo imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.