July 16 -
Egypt, Gulf Arabs review strategic cooperation
Egypt and its Gulf Arab allies are studying a plan
for possible strategic defense cooperation across the oil-rich Gulf,
the Middle East and parts of Africa, officials said on Monday.
"It is an idea for military cooperation not
(an Egyptian) military presence in the Gulf," an Arab defense
official said of the plan which could eventually involve the exchange
of information and integration of some defense systems.
Kuwait's Defense Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Hamad Al-Sabah
told Al-Rai Al-Aam newspaper he "does not rule out" an
Egyptian role in a recent Gulf Arab joint defense pact.
Egypt "could directly participate in
implementing the joint Gulf defense pact," he said following a
trip to Egypt.
The move follows the failure of a plan after the
1991 Gulf War for close military cooperation between the six Gulf Arab
states and regional military powers Egypt and Syria which helped end a
seven-month-long Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.
Sheikh Jaber did not give further details of
Cairo's possible role in the Gulf Arab defense plan but stressed
"the need to benefit from Egypt's military experience."
Defense experts said the new idea involves linking
some Gulf systems, like command and control operations, to Egypt
across the Red Sea to widen the range of coverage of a planned defense
shield for the oil-rich region.
The six Gulf Arab states are already integrating
their military command and control structures to set up an
early-warning network to cover the Arabian Peninsula and allow them to
coordinate a swift response in case of a threat.
It could eventually involve downlinks to retrieve
information from several systems such as Saudi Arabia's AWACS
(Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft. Their range extend to
parts of Egypt and non-Arab Iran.
The plan, experts said, calls for linking Gulf Arab
systems, including data from the AWACS, to Egyptian command and
Jordan announces major petrol price hike
Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb on Tuesday
announced the kingdom's first major petrol hike in over a decade, with
new prices affecting gasoline, gas cannisters and diesel for heating.
He said the move will help shore up the country's
ailing economy in line with recommendations by the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and bring in to the economy 45 million dinars
annually (63 million dollars), and 23 million dinars (32 million
dollars) by the end of the year.
The price of gasoline — regular, premium and
unleaded — will go up by 14 to 15 per cent, while gas will increase
by 15 per cent and diesel for heating by 3.8 per cent. The cost of
public transport will also be raised, Abu Ragheb said, although he was
not immediately able to say by how much.
According to government officials, the petrol hikes
are still well below demands made by the IMF to raise petrol prices by
30 to 40 per cent as part of efforts to maintain the budget deficit
within a target of six per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.
Jordan faces a budget deficit of 253 million
dollars for 2001.
"We had tough negotiations with the IMF and
over the past three days we had more discussions with them and
yesterday we agreed to increase some petroleum product," Abu
Six per cent of the revenues that the government
will earn from the increased petrol prices will be used to fund the
desert kingdom's debt-ridden municipalities which face a budget
deficit of 70 million dinars (100 million dollars), Abu Ragheb said.
Abu Ragheb insisted that the government decided
against increasing fuel oil and other heavy duty petroleum products so
as not to burden the industrial sector. The government also ruled out
imposing increases on bread and electricity.
"The increases will not affect the economy of
Jordan because it will not affect the price of bread, electricity,
water, the trucking industry and therefore will not affect the lives
of the limited income people," Abu Ragheb said.
Japan to back Iran's bid for WTO
Japan has promised its support for Iran's bid to
become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Japanese
sources in Teheran said on Monday.
Japanese trade minister Takeo Hiranuma gave the
assurance on Sunday during a visit to Teheran to arrange a joint oil
project, sources said. It is expected that Iran's WTO bid will be
opposed by the United States.
Hiranuma signed with the Iranian oil ministry
initial agreements on a joint project to develop the Azadegan oil
fields in the south-western Khuzestan province close to the Iraqi
border. Tokyo hopes to involve European and the United States firms in
the project. Meanwhile, Japan's Energy Minister Takeo Hiranuma on
Monday wound up what he termed a 'successful' tour of the Gulf during
which oil agreements were signed in Iran and Kuwait.
Hiranuma also held talks with officials in the
United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia on a four-nation tour.
"Japan relies on this region for about 86 per cent of its oil
supplies and this region is important to Japan."
Syria's communist parties torn by internal strife
Syria's communists are experiencing internal strife
again, with growing discontent over succession issues in one of their
two authorized parties, and an ideological struggle in the other.
The Syrian Communist Party (SCP), allied to the
ruling pan-Arab Baath party, split in 1986 over Mikhail Gorbachev's
reforms in the USSR, and the two parties which were subsequently
formed kept the same name.
The Stalinist branch is led by Wissal Farha, the
widow of Khaled Bakdash — a historic leader of the party founded in
1924 — and the other is headed by Yussef Faysal.
Farha's party has recently been torn by protest
from members who accuse her of paving the way for her own son, Ammar
Bakdash, to succeed her as secretary general.
Arab League spokeswoman
The Arab League has put media-savvy Palestinian
former minister Hanan Ashrawi, 54, in charge of its media relations,
league secretary general Amr Mussa said Wednesday. Immediately after
her appointment, Ashrawi slammed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's
government for their ethnic cleansing in Palestine.
"Israel has not declared a war, but is waging
a daily war... through premeditated murder, the destruction of homes
and ethnic cleansing," Ashrawi told reporters.
"All these acts are in line with Sharon's
point of view, showing that he wants to purge Palestinian territory...
By making life impossible for Palestinian people in
the land of Palestine," Ashrawi said.
Her job as commissioner for information will
include "refuting and explaining to Arab and world opinion,
particularly American and European, the challenges and distortions
which the Palestinian cause is confronting," Mussa said after an
overnight meeting with Ashrawi.
Israeli tank fire kills two Palestinian policemen
Israeli tank shells killed two Palestinian
policemen in their outpost in the West Bank city of Nablus on
Thursday, Palestinian security and hospital officials said.
The officials said four policemen and a 12-year-old
boy were wounded in the same attack. The Israeli army was checking the
At least 20 Palestinians and 10 Israelis have been
killed since Israel and the Palestinians adopted in mid-June a
US-brokered ceasefire to end nine months of violence.
Iraq, UN extend oil-for-food program
Iraq and the United Nations on Monday signed an
agreement extending for five months the oil-for-food humanitarian
program, which will allow Iraq to export oil until Nov. 30, the United
The deal was another hurdle to surmount before
Iraqi oil exports, suspended on June 4, can resume. Baghdad had cut
off oil flows to protest discussions of a US-British plan to revamp
"Letters were exchanged between Iraq and the
United Nations extending the oil-for-food program for 150 days from
July 4," UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said.
Iraqi ambassador Mohammed Aldouri said that the
resumption of oil exports was imminent. "Oil will flow soon.
The oil-for-food program allows Iraq to sell oil,
an exception to sanctions imposed in August 1990, and use the funds to
purchase food, medicine and a host of other civilian goods. But the
United Nations controls the oil revenues and pays the suppliers from a
special escrow fund.
IDB releases $54 Mln aid
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) announced
Tuesday it had released 54 million dollars in new aid for the
Palestinian Authority (PA).
The IDB said 30 million dollars of the aid
represented the fourth of the six monthly instalments worth 180
million dollars pledged in March during the latest Arab summit in
The aid was delivered in the form of a
"loan" paid directly into the treasury of Palestinian leader
Yasser Arafat's PA to "help it respond to the fundamental needs
of the Palestinian people in resisting Israel." The instalments
are taken from the two Jeddah-based Arab funds which were created at
the Arab summit in Cairo in October 2000 and placed under IDB
management to support the Palestinians.
Gulf states give nod to regional gas network
The six Gulf monarchies on Tuesday approved the
first phase of a one-billion-dollar regional natural gas network, a
Bahraini oil official said.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) "approved
the first phase of the feasibility study for a regional natural gas
network, whose cost is estimated at one billion dollars," said
Mohammad Saleh Al-Sheikh, undersecretary of Bahrain's oil ministry.
Sheikh, speaking after a meeting with GCC
counterparts in Manama, said the second phase of the study by the Gulf
Organisation for Industrial Consultancy (GOIC) will be completed
before the next Gulf summit in Muscat in December.
He added that GCC member states had still not
settled on how to finance the project.
The project calls for establishing a gas grid among
the GCC members of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the
United Arab Emirates, in an effort to benefit all six economies.
Saudi to hire expert teachers
The Saudi education ministry is to hire 3,000 male
Arab teachers to offset an acute shortage of language and science
teachers, a newspaper reported Thursday.
The ministry has sent selection committees to
several Arab countries including Egypt, Sudan and Syria to recruit
male teachers of English, mathematics and special education, Arab News
It announced in April plans to replace all foreign
women teachers at girls' state schools with its own nationals by the
end of the seventh five-year development plan in 2004.
Tanks to Lebanon
Jordan is awaiting US approval to donate 50 US-made
tanks to Lebanon, Information Minister Saleh Kallab said on Monday in
reaction to press reports from Beirut.
"American laws stipulate that US approval must
be given to any country that wishes to sell or donate any of its
weapons to a third country," Kallab told Al-Rai newspaper.
He said authorization must be forthcoming from
Washington because the tanks, which he did not identify, are US-made.
The Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir reported on Sunday
that Jordan promised to give Lebanon tanks, Al-Rai newspaper said.
A similar donation to Beirut was made in the 1950s,
when Jordan offered British-made tanks to Lebanon.
Syria to provide Jordan with water
Syria will provide Jordan with two million cubic
meters (70 million cubic feet) of water to help the drought-stricken
kingdom fend off a 50 per cent water deficit, the water minister said
Minister Hazem Al-Nasser said the water will be
pumped to Jordan from theYarmuk River which has its source in Syria
and flows into the kingdom.
Nasser thanked Syria for this measure and "for
not growing summer crops on both sides of the Yarmuk River to increase
the water flow to Jordan," Petra news agency reported.
Water ministry sources said they except Syria to
begin pumping the water later this week.
Iraq won't favour French firms for business
Iraq said on Monday it would not favour French
firms for business in the country because of French backing for a
US-British plan to revamp 11-year-old sanctions against Baghdad, the
official news agency INA said.
"France will not be given priority in trade
dealings with Iraq in the future because of its support for the stupid
sanctions plan against Iraq," INA quoted Trade Minister Mohammed
Mehdi Saleh as saying.
"Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Russia will have
priority in trade dealings in the coming period in appreciation of
their opposition to the wicked American-British plan."
Saudi banks report double-digit profit rises
Two major Saudi banks, National Commercial Bank (NCB)
and Saudi American Bank (Samba), on Monday announced double-digit
profit increases in the first half of 2001.
NCB's profits rose to 1.184 billion riyals (315.7
million dollars), up 28.2 per cent compared to the first six months of
2000. Its assets stand at 97.7 billion riyals (26.05 billion dollars),
the bank said in a statement.
The first-half profits of Samba reached 1.109
billion riyals (295.7 million dollars), an increase of 13 per cent
over the same period last year. Assets fell to 20.2 billion dollars
from 21.6 billion dollars at the end of 2000.