July 23 -
Jordan trade deal hits snag in US Congress
A landmark US-Jordan free trade deal hit a snag in
Congress on Tuesday, as a prominent Republican senator threatened to
block a vote on ratification, objecting to the pact's labor and
Senator Phil Gramm of Texas said he could use
procedural means to stop the bill from reaching the Senate floor as
his amendment targeting the two clauses was voted down by the Senate
Heated debate over Gramm's objections stalled plans
for a vote, which would have sent the deal — reached by the Clinton
administration last year — to the Senate floor for ratification.
The pact is seen as a model for future US free
trade pacts, but that worries some Republican senators, as it is the
first such deal to carry specific labor and environmental guarantees
— measures long sought by trade unions.
Gramm claimed the US-Jordan deal would allow an
international dispute panel to adjudicate whether future US
environmental and labor standards deteriorate — and then allow
Jordan to impose punitive sanctions.
Such a panel could preclude Congress from changing
US law — for instance, to authorise the opening of nature reserves
for oil exploration — and so dilute US sovereignty, he argued.
"I don't take a back seat to any living human
being in my commitment to trade. I am for it," said Gramm.
"But we are in a situation where we could
literally pass a portion of American sovereignty over lawmaking to an
international tribunal." But Democrats say Gramm's objections are
immaterial, arguing that the dispute panel provided for under the deal
would be appointed only by Jordan and the United States and is
therefore not a remote international body.
OPEC may cut supply
OPEC is considering cutting crude output again, its
hand forced by a fall in oil prices and the deteriorating outlook for
world oil demand, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said Thursday.
The Saudi minister, OPEC's most influential, said
cartel ministers were in contact and were "very serious"
about new supply curbs before the group's next scheduled meeting at
the end of September.
"The way prices are behaving and the way the
projections are looking, we have no choice," Naimi said.
Oil prices rallied on the comments, with London
Brent jumping 49 cents to $24.71 a barrel after eight straight days of
losses. U.S. light crude was up 59 cents at $25.52 a barrel.
Brent remains nearly $5 below a mid-June peak, and
OPEC's reference basket of crudes was valued Wednesday at $22.64, near
the bottom of the group's preferred $22-to-$28 range.
On the defensive, the Organization of the Petroleum
Exporting Countries thinks it might need to slice output for the third
time this year to protect its central $25 a barrel price target.
A Saudi official said Wednesday that Riyadh
believed something more than 500,000 barrels a day could be withdrawn
to keep prices afloat.
"The Saudis have said they would do what's
needed to support prices, and their track record over the past 2-1/2
years lends credence to these claims," said Adam Sieminski of
OPEC has an informal agreement that output will be
adjusted by 500,000 barrels per day if prices stray outside the
$22-to-$28 range, but the Saudi camp is keen that ministers not be
strictly bound by the mechanism, which has only been used once before.
Jordan approves controversial electoral law
Jordan's cabinet has approved a controversial
election law ahead of an expected delay to November's parliamentary
poll until next year, officials said on Wednesday.
They said the cabinet approved the amended
legislation, which leaves intact an electoral system unpopular with
the powerful Islamist opposition, on Tuesday night and submitted it to
King Abdullah to enact as law.
Jordan's political scene has over the last few
months been rife with speculation about the fate of the November
election, the fourth since Jordan revived parliamentary life in 1989
in the wake of civil unrest.
Senior officials say the monarch will announce in
the next few days a delay to the next four-year parliamentary term by
up to one year.
Saudi, Bahrain suspend imports of Asian soya
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday suspended imports of soya
sauce products from five Asian countries over reports that it could
contain carcinogenic substances.
The commerce ministry also ordered the withdrawal
from local markets of all soya sauce products from China, Hong Kong,
Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand until samples had been tested in
The ministry was acting on reports that soya sauce
from those countries contained high per centages of a chemical
substance, Mepd-3, which is known to be carcinogenic.
Similar fears caused Bahrain's health ministry to
announce a similar ban on soya products from Hong Kong, Malaysia and
Thailand late Monday.
The Gulf Cooperation Council — Bahrain, Kuwait,
Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — suspended
imports of Spanish olive oil earlier this month over fears it
contained a carcinogenic substance called benzopyrene.
Oil price to slip to $21
World oil prices are set to fall to 21 dollars per
barrel on average in the autumn, a key OPEC official told the Austrian
daily Kurier on Monday.
"The price of oil is undoubtedly under
pressure and could slip to 21-22 dollars in the autumn," said
Shokri Ghanem, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
(OPEC) deputy secretary general.
Oil prices fell heavily late last week, slipping
below 25 dollars a barrel for the first time since early April, as
market reacted to a slump in US demand and the resumption of Iraqi
exports, suspended for five weeks due to a row over proposed
modifications of UN sanctions against Baghdad.
OPEC`s benchmark average price of seven world crude
blends, to which Ghanem was referring in his price forecast, stood at
23.53 according to OPEC calculations on Monday.
The 11-member oil-producing organisation held two
meetings in quick succession in June and July to respond to the Iraqi
oil suspension, but left its output levels unchanged at both meetings.
Palestinian woman, two children injured
A Palestinian woman and her two children were
injured in a West Bank village on Wednesday when an Israeli personnel
carrier slammed into her house, witnesses said.
They said Israeli troops were moving through Abu
Nujeim, which is under Palestinian control, when the carrier hit the
house, pieces of which fell on the woman and children.
The Israeli army beefed up its presence in the West
Bank overnight after two mortar bombs were fired from the West Bank on
Jerusalem, the first such incident since the Palestinian Intifada
against Israeli occupation began more than 10 months ago.
The mortar bombs were fired after four Palestinians
were killed in an Israeli helicopter strike on Bethlehem Tuesday that
the Palestinian Authority said amounted to an act of war.
Assad must shed old guard
A prominent Syrian dissident on Monday said
President Bashar Al-Assad needed to break free of old guard
powerbrokers loyal to his late father and give rein to his reformist
Nizar Nayyouf, a journalist released in May after
nine years in jail in Syria, said the 35-year-old leader remained
under the influence of hardliners loyal to Hafez Al-Assad.
"Assad can be considered as weaker and more
susceptible to pressure," Nayyouf said through a translator at a
news conference in Paris, where he arrived on Sunday for medical
"I still maintain there is a chance to get out
of this situation if he appeals to Syrian public opinion and if he
rids himself of the old guard, which restricts his movements."
Moroccan rights groups ask CIA to open files
Two Moroccan independent human rights groups asked
the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on Tuesday to release files
related to Morocco's alleged repression of political dissidents over
the past decades.
The groups AMDH and OMDH, in an open letter
addressed to President George W. Bush, said information revealed by a
Moroccan former secret agent showed the CIA had a hand in what has
become known in Morocco as the country's "dark past."
The agent, Ahmed Boukhari, told France's Le Monde
newspaper and the Moroccan weekly Le Journal of the circumstances
surrounding the death of Moroccan opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka in
Paris in 1965 and specifically mentioned the CIA.
Saddam invites Kurds
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invited Kurdish
rebel foes on Sunday to open dialogue with Baghdad, Iraqi state-run
"We want any solution with as few losses as
possible, when the solution is among our people," the television
quoted Saddam as saying.
The remote mountainous enclave of northern Iraq,
controlled by two rival Iraqi Kurdish groups, has been outside
Baghdad's control since the end of the 1991 Gulf War to end its
occupation of Kuwait.
US and British jets patrol no-fly zones set up
after the expulsion of Iraqi troops from Kuwait to protect Kurd
dissidents in northern Iraq from attack by Baghdad forces.
Arab Bank H1 net profit up 11.85%
Arab Bank Group's net profit increased by 11.85 per
cent in the first half of this year to $167.184 million compared to
$149.468 million in the same period last year, the bank said on
Jordan's leading bank and one of the Middle East's
largest financial institutions said in a statement that its pre-tax
profits rose by 13.3 per cent to $208.085 million compared to $183.612
in the same period last year.
Iraq gives priority to Russia, Syria in import
Iraq will give priority to Russia and Syria in
import contracts under the UN oil-for-food programme rather than
France which has won the lion's share of deals since 1996, an Iraqi
official said Sunday.
"Iraq will intensify (commercial) ties with
friendly countries, notably Russia and Syria, for having supported
Iraq" in opposing US and British proposals to impose
"smart" sanctions on Baghdad, the official told AFP.
The official, asking not to be named, said priority
would in future also go to Jordan, Egypt and Malaysia.
On July 4, the UN Security Council extended the
oil-for-food deal for five months after shelving plans to impose the
revised sanctions proposed by Washington and London due to Russian
Egypt's Orascom wins Algerian phone license
Egypt's mobile phone company, Orascom Telecom (OT),
has landed the second license to install a mobile phone grid in
Algeria with a 737-million-dollar bid, the company announced in a
OT is expected to set up and operate the country's
second mobile phone network within six months, the company said.
Orascom Telecom Algeria is a company with 51 per
cent of the stock owned by OT.
Following the success of MashreqInvestments series
products in the last few months, Mashreqbank is launching (Saturday 14
July) another capital guaranteed investment fund that offers an
unprecedented minimum return of 15 per cent at maturity, and also the
possibility of higher returns linked to the performance of the US, UK
& European stock markets.
Iran takes its time over Caspian carve up
Others may be rushing to carve up the Caspian Sea's
resources, but Iran is biding its time as it seeks to maximise its
stake in the energy-rich region and win business as a transit route
for oil and gas, analysts say.
They say Iran has been a stubborn negotiator in
talks with Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan as the
debate about dividing up the area has rumbled on between the five
Yet, analysts say Iran's resolve had yet to be
tested by any increased pressure from Russia, which is keen to secure
investment in the area, while its aims to be a key oil and gas export
route have been hampered by US sanctions.
Iran, already one of the world's biggest oil
producers, has been slow to join the race to develop the Caspian,
while Western oil majors have pumped in investment elsewhere on the
Kuwaiti bourse surges, Lebanon's BLOM down
Kuwait's bourse surged 3.2 per cent higher and a
recovery in Oman stalled on profit-taking in a negative week for most
Arab stock markets, Bakheet Financial Advisors (BFA) reported
The KSE in Kuwait closed on 1,761.20 points, its
highest level in two and a half years, driven by high liquidity and
strong financial results for the first six months of 2001.
The Kuwaiti bourse is the best performer in the
Arab world so far this year, notching up gains of 29.6 per cent since
the end of December, said the Riyadh-based BFA.
The biggest loser of the work was the BLOM index in Lebanon which
fell 2.9 per cent to 479.24 points, as market leader Solidere in
charge of Beirut's reconstruction lost 4.7 per cent.