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July 09 - 15, 2001

Jordan government mulls petrol price hike

Jordan's government is considering a hike in the price of some petrol products in order to fund the desert kingdom's municipalities, Energy Minister Mohammad Batayneh said Sunday.

"The government is actually studying an increase in prices for certain petrol derivatives," he told AFP, without naming which ones.

He cautioned any price hike would be "light, in order to take into consideration the living conditions of Jordaians with limited incomes." He cited the need for a price hike due to inflation in oil prices worldwide. The Jordanian daily Al-Rai reported that the additional revenue would be allocated to Jordan's municipalities, which face a budget deficit of 70 million dinars (100 million dollars).Batayneh did not reveal any date for the measure.
The minister added that fuel prices remain lower in Jordan than "in neighbouring countries, or even in oil producing countries." Jordan imports all its oil from Iraq, amounting to some five million tonnes annually. Half of the figure is purchased at a bargain price, while the rest is delivered free of charge.

Jordan faces a budget deficit of 253 million dollars for 2001.

The government had announced plans to raise fuel prices at the end of 2000 before suspending the move "temporarily."

Meanwhile, the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) on Sunday announced a loan of 20 million dollars for Jordan to carry out monetary and banking reforms.

AMF director general Jassem al-Mannai and Jordan's central bank governor Umayya Tukan signed the loan agreement at the fund's headquarters in Abu Dhabi, it said in a statement.

The terms were not disclosed, but the Arab League generally offers soft loans to help member states with balance of payments problems and to stabilise exchange rates.

Jordan has now received a total of 178 million dollars in AMF loans since the fund was set up in 1977.

OPEC cools on output hike as prices slide

OPEC energy chiefs converging on Vienna this week are poised to reject calls for an output increase to make up a shortfall left by Iraq, in light of the recent slide in crude prices.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) called Tuesday's extraordinary meeting at the last powwow of the 11-member cartel in early June, when it refused to hike output but said it would act if Baghdad's export freeze destabilised the market.

Since then Iraq has maintained its export suspension to protest US-British efforts to impose a new sanctions regime, but markets have barely flinched at the missing volumes of more than two million barrels of crude a day.

Prices have actually fallen heavily since.

The basket price OPEC uses to help guide its policy has dropped below the oil-exporting club's target of 25 dollars a barrel in recent days, undermined by swelling stocks and signs that demand is suffering from the global economic downturn.

Crude prices in both London and New York have slumped to levels not seen in months, close to 25 dollars a barrel in recent days.

With the prospect of an end to the Iraqi export halt lurking in the wings if efforts to impose new so-called smart sanctions fail and the existing oil-for-food is extended instead, OPEC seems almost certain to turn a deaf ear to calls for it to pump more oil.

The fact that the UN Security Council's deadline for agreement on any changes to sanctions against Iraq falls on Tuesday hours after OPEC ministers are expected to begin talks will only serve to harden OPEC's resolve to maintain its wait-and-see approach.

OPEC officials have already all but ruled out an increase in production quotas on Tuesday.

"It seems that in this meeting OPEC will not take any decision to increase production," OPEC secretary general Ali Rodriguez said.

"There is not at this moment a necessity for more oil, but perhaps in the third and fourth quarter, mainly in the fourth quarter the demand is higher," he told AFP in an interview ahead of Tuesday's meeting.

Egypt issues $1.5 billion of eurobonds

Egypt has issued 1.5 billion dollars worth of dollar-denominated eurobonds after parliament passed a law earlier this month allowing the issue to go ahead, Akhbar Al-Yom newspaper said Saturday.

The government on Friday issued 500 million dollars worth of bonds with a five year maturity and a billion dollars worth of bonds with a 10 year maturity, the paper reported.

The interest rate for the five-year eurobonds was set at 7.6 per cent while the rate for the 10-year bonds was set at 8.7 per cent, the paper said.

Egyptian bourse slumps in mixed Arab week

The Egyptian bourse slumped 2.8 per cent in a mixed week for Arab stock markets, Bakheet Financial Advisors (BFA) reported on Saturday.

At the other end of the scale, Jordan's ASE index gained 2.3 per cent to close on 140.86 points. And Oman's troubled MSM index recovered ground for a second straight week, gaining 1.2 per cent to close on 165.85 points.

In Cairo, the Hermes Financial Index declined to 5,969.53 points, continuing a downward trend since January due to a slowdown in privatisation and a shortage of dollars in the economy.

The Egyptian bourse is the Arab world's worst performer of the year so far, having plunged 23.2 per cent.

Another loser on the week was the Tunindex in Tunisia, which weakened 1.7 per cent to 1,318.40 points.

The Emirati NBAD index lost 1.4 per cent to close on 2,456.34 points, while the BLOM index in Lebanon slipped 0.6 per cent to 505.73 points.

Oman predicts proven oil reserves will nearly double

Oman can increase its proven oil reserves by four billion barrels to a total of nine billion barrels and still be producing crude in 50 years from now, the sultanate's oil and gas minister said Monday.

"Using today's technology, we are confident that we can increase this by another four billion barrels," Mohammed bin Hamad al-Romhi said on the website of the bimonthly Oman Economic Review.

Until now, Oman's proven reserves of just over five billion barrels were expected to run dry around 2017.

"My message is, 50 years from today we will still be producing oil", revealed Romhi, who briefed Sultan Qaboos on the development in June.

From a total oil resource base of 50 billion barrels, Oman has produced 6.1 billion barrels or 12 per cent, to date.

Production of a further nine billion barrels would take total recovery to just over 30 per cent, said the minister whose country is an independent producer of around 900,000 barrels of crude per day.

Jordanians still awaiting compensation

A decade after the catastrophic collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), dozens of Jordanian depositors are still trying to recover more than 100 million dollars lost in the crash.

"July 5, 2001 is the 10th anniversary of the closure of the BCCI. Ten years have passed and the depositors have received only crumbs," a statement by the Depositors Protection Association said Wednesday.

It urged the legal authorities in Luxembourg, headquarters of the collapsed BCCI, to "speed up" action to compensate Jordanian nationals who had deposited their money in BCCI outside the kingdom.

SABIC seeking investment opportunities

Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) is seeking investment opportunities and looking to expand its scope of manufacturing beyond the Kingdom.

"We are studying various possibilities in this regard but we have not arrived at any conclusion as yet," said Nasir Sayyari, president basic chemicals group of SABIC, when asked to comment on reports that SABIC is discussing a proposal with the Iranian National Petrochemical Company to invest in a polymer project in Iran.

Iran alerts navy to face US attack

Iran is said to be concerned at the possibility of a punitive United States attack and has asked its naval units to be on alert.

Reporting this in a write-up in its Sunday issue, The Washington Times quoting intelligence sources says the Iranian fears of a US strike flow from the indictments recently handed down against 13 people for involvement in the bombing of a US military installation in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 1996, in which 19 Americans were killed.

Israeli jets pound Syrian positions

Israeli warplanes hit a Syrian anti-aircraft position in eastern Lebanon on Sunday. One Lebanese and two Syrian soldiers were reported wounded in Sunday's air raid, Lebanese military officials said.

Dubai Duty Free tops

Dubai Duty Free (DDF) has topped an independent poll of more than 46,000 travelers in 24 airports on four continents for having the best shopping facilities, a newspaper reported Thursday.

DDF headed all 11 categories in the survey carried out by European Data and Research Ltd. on the purchasing habits of international travelers, Khaleej Times said.

Jordan National Bank

The Jordan National Bank has opened a new financial institution in Lebanon known as the Ahli International Bank following a merger with the Lebanon-Kuwait Bank, a statement said on Thursday.

Ahli International Bank has assets of 220 million dollars and capital of 22 million dollars, with the Jordan National Bank holding 85.5 per cent, the statement said.

It will operate in several Lebanese cities after having received at the end of May the official go-ahead from the Central Bank of Lebanon.

Palestinians brace for Israeli assassinations

A senior Palestinian official said on Wednesday that an Israeli cabinet decision to assassinate Palestinian activists proved it was not committed to a US-brokered ceasefire designed to end nine months of clashes.

Israel's security cabinet on Wednesday approved a strategy of attacking Palestinian activists despite US opposition and the Palestinian Authority condemnation of the assassination campaign.

Iran says its missing diplomats in Israel

Iran said on Tuesday it had proof that Israel was holding four Iranian diplomats abducted during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

The diplomats are believed to have been seized by pro-Israeli Christian militiamen in Beirut in 1982 when Israeli forces surrounded the capital.

Israel and Christian militias have claimed the four dead.

Iraq hails victory over 'smart' sanctions

Iraq on Tuesday claimed a "victory" over US and British efforts to revise the 11-year-old sanctions regime, after the UN Security Council indefinitely put off a vote on proposed reforms.

"The American plot has collapsed. This collapse is a victory for the will of our Arab people," Iraq's minister of state for foreign affairs, Naji Sabri Al-Hadithi, told the Qatari satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera.

"It's also a victory for the will of the countries which voiced their rejection of this deceitful project, such as Jordan, Syria and Egypt," the official said.

New Gulf ferry service heads for Iraq

A new passenger ferry service linking the Gulf Arab states and India set sail from Bahrain on Saturday for the Iraqi port of Um Qasr, a Bahrain-based shipping line said.

Ibrahim Rajab, a spokesman for Tylos Ferry, told AFP that the vessel Al-Salam Taba I left Bahrain's Mina Salman port with more than 420 passengers on board. It was due to arrive in Iraq on Sunday.

Al-Salam, which earlier June launched the first passenger sea link between the Gulf and India in almost 30 years, already picked up almost 40 travellers to Iraq from Doha on Friday.

It will operate "like a taxi service", depending on demand from countries in the Gulf, explained Rajab.

Commercial air links

Royal Jordanian, the national airline, said Saturday it had resumed its flights to Qatar following the end to a diplomatic row over a Jordanian member of the Palestinian group Hamas who had been exiled in Qatar.

A statement said the company had "resumed its regular flights to and from Doha from Friday with a flight that left Amman for Bangkok via Doha."

For its part, Qatar Airways will resume Saturday its regular flights between Doha and Amman, a company source said in Amman.

Islamic bank to boost capital to $200 mln

A Bahrain-based Islamic investment bank plans to boost its paid up capital to 200 million dollars by the end of 2001 from the current level of 30 million dollars, a newspaper reported Friday.

Investors Bank chairman Sami al-Bader al-Jenaai, quoted in Gulf Daily News, said a likely merger with another financial institution in the region would aim to raise around 70 million dollars.

The remaining 100 million dollars would be injected by existing and new shareholders, including conventional institutions, Jenaai told reporters after the bank held an annual general meeting in Manama on Thursday.