Aug 06 -
12 , 2001
Egypt's Mubarak orders daily currency policy review
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak ordered ministers
on Wednesday to meet daily to review policies designed to stabilise
Egypt's sliding currency, a senior official said on Wednesday.
"They will meet daily at 9 a.m., announcing
clear measures and policies to realise stability in the exchange
market for foreign currency...and meet foreign currency
requirements," Information Minister Safwat al-Sherif said after a
meeting between Mubarak and several ministers.
Sherif said the daily gatherings would include
Prime Minister Atef Obeid, the ministers of economy, finance,
interior, trade and supply, and Central Bank Governor Ismail Hassan.
He did not say when the regular meetings would begin.
After the announcement the market buzzed with
speculation that the Central Bank might alter the central peg of its
exchange rate system — currently at 3.90 pounds to the dollar —
which was introduced early this year.
"It makes sense that they (the Central Bank)
would change the rate. There is always a gap between the pegged rate
and the black market rate, and maintaining that gap is not
healthy," said one Cairo-based trader who would not give his
Under the "managed peg" system the pound
is allowed to trade in a narrow band against the dollar around a core
The central rate was initially set at 3.85 pounds
to the dollar and moved to 3.86 on May 28 and then again to 3.90 on
July 3. Market sources said mid-July that black market pound-dollar
rates ranged between 4.14 and 4.16. More recently sources have been
quoting figures of 4.20/4.25. The government, which has accused
exchange bureaux of trading outside the officially-set currency range
and has shut some down, has also used foreign reserves to try to
stabilise the pound.
Iran leader confirms Khatami for second term
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
endorsed reformist Mohammad Khatami as president for a second
four-year term on Thursday.
President Khatami, easily re-elected with 77 per
cent of the vote in June, is to formally begin his second term when he
takes his oath of office in parliament on August 5.
"I confirm the people's vote and appoint him
as president," said a statement by Khamenei read out at a
ceremony at the leader's residence.
"My endorsement of the people's vote is valid
as long as he continues on the path of Islam and stands against the
arrogant enemies." Khatami must introduce a new cabinet to
parliament for a vote of confidence within two weeks of taking oath.
Many of his supporters expect him to choose a more
reformist cabinet to press on with his efforts to renew the Islamic
The soft-spoken, mid-ranking cleric has been locked
in a sometimes bitter struggle with conservatives entrenched in the
political establishment who are opposed to his reforms.
"The president who is chosen by the people has
a heavy duty towards them," Khatami said in a speech at the
ceremony. "The people's right to oversee, to criticise and to
protest is a fundamental and inalienable right.
"Every individual must be able to speak his
mind without fear." Khatami called for greater cooperation
between the sometimes feuding arms of the state, government,
parliament and judiciary.
"The success of the president depends on the
role of the leader, on the harmony with the other branches of power
and the cooperation of all political factions," he said.
Many political groups are vying for appointments to
Khatami's new cabinet, demanding positions in exchange for backing the
president's re-election bid.
US House approves free-trade pact with Jordan
The US House of Representatives approved on Tuesday
a long-awaited free-trade agreement with Jordan, but further delay was
expected in the Senate because of the pact's labor and environmental
The House approved the US-Jordan Free Trade
Agreement on a voice vote. It was negotiated last year by the Clinton
administration and binds each country to phase out tariffs on the
other's agricultural and industrial goods over 10 years.
The Bush administration hailed the action, which
signaled that at least two-thirds of the House supported the
agreement, as a good sign for its bid to win legislative authority to
negotiate new multilateral trade pacts.
Oil price dips as traders await stock snapshot
The price of oil held steady on Tuesday as traders
sat on their hands ahead of weekly stock figures to be published after
the close of trade.
A barrel of Benchmark Brent North Sea crude for
September delivery was being traded at 24.73 dollars, against 24.96 on
New York light sweet crude September futures fell
39 cents overnight to 26.63 dollars.
The basket price of seven crudes worldwide used by
the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to help guide
output fell to 23.63 dollars a barrel on Monday, from 23.87 last
Friday, the Vienna-based OPECNA agency reported.
Iran launches 12 oil and gas projects
Iran is embarking on 12 oil and gas development
projects to raise production by more than 500,000 barrels per day,
which will require 21 billion dollars in direct investment, state
radio said Monday.
"With these 12 projects, the capacity of
petroleum production will increase by 520,000 barrels per day,"
said the vice president of Iran's National Gas Company (INGC), Mehdi Mir-Moezi.
If the projects are fully realised, that would
raise the country's gross production to 4.5 million barrels per day by
the first quarter of 2006.
Mir-Moezi added that with the dozen projects
"production of natural gas would increase by 220 million cubic
metres (7.7 billion cubic feet) per day, and the capacity of liquified
gas would increase by 390,000 barrels per day." According to
official estimates, the projects would result in new revenues of 12.5
billion dollars for the country every year.
Petroleum sales earned Iran some 16 billion dollars
in 2000, amounting to 82 per cent of foreign currency earnings, and
could hit 22 billion dollars in 2001, according to official figures.
Eight Palestinians killed in Nablus massacre
At least Eight Palestinians, including two senior
Hamas officials, were assassinated on Tuesday in an Israeli attack on
an office of the group in the West Bank, Al Jazeera TV reported. The
Eight dead included two brothers, aged 10 and 12, who were in a nearby
shop in Nablus on Tuesday.
The two Hamas leaders killed were identified as
Jamal Mansour, 41, and Jamal Salim, 42. Another three Hamas officials
and a journalist were among the dead and another 15 people were
injured, two of them seriously, the sources said.
"Eight Palestinians, among them two children,
were killed in the Israeli bombardment," said an emergency
medical official in Nablus.
Israel forces bombarded a seven-store building in
the Palestinian-ruled town which housed the office run by Hamas, the
Islamic Resistance Movement which is fighting the Israeli occupation
of Arab land.
Saudi bourse hits 16-year high
The Saudi bourse increased 1.1 per cent to close
the week ending Thursday at its highest level since 1985 on the back
of gains by the market leaders, Bakheet Financial Advisors (BFA)
The NCFEI all-shares index closed at 2,497.17
points, up from 2,468.97 on July 26. It is now 10.6 per cent higher
than at the beginning of the year, Bakheet said.
Mubarak says talk of Arab summit illogical
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Wednesday it
was "illogical" to talk about holding an Arab summit
"every time something happens," after talks with Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat, who is pressing for such a summit, the state
MENA news agency reported.
"It is illogical to consider a summit every
time something happens", said Mubarak, who added: "What use
would a summit be now?"
"Holding mini-summits or maxi-summits is not
the question," he said, adding that "contacts can yield
results, whether they are held between the Palestinians and Israel
only, or with the United States and the European Union."
Saudi King Fahd welcomes Rafiq Hariri
Saudi Arabian King Fahd met in Jeddah on Tuesday
with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the official SPA news
"The situation in the Arab world, notably on
the Palestinian scene, as well as perspectives on bilateral
cooperation" were on the agenda, SPA said.
Hariri, who arrived the previous night in Riyadh,
arrived in Jeddah early Tuesday, where he was welcomed by Crown Prince
Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.
Hariri enjoys warm relations with the Saudi
kingdom, and last visited the country in May.
Syria, Lebanon hold military talks
A Lebanese military team led by army Chief of Staff
General Fadi abu Shaqrah held talks with Syrian military leaders on
Monday discussing ways of promoting cooperation between the two
armies, officials said.
They said the team held separate talks with Defense
Minister General Mustafa Tlas and Syrian army Chief of Staff General
"Talks during the meeting dealt with the
existing cooperation between the Syrian and Lebanese armies and ways
of promoting this cooperation to serve the interests of both the
Syrian and Lebanese peoples," one official said.
Egypt stocks hit lifetime lows
Egypt's stocks dipped on Tuesday with indices
hitting lifetime lows for the fourth consecutive day as key blue-chip
stocks fell following worse than expected results from Commercial
International Bank, traders said.
The Hermes index closed down 143.78 points, or 2.6
per cent, at 5,322.08 points, breaching Monday's seven-year low of
Jordan shortlists firms
Jordan has shortlisted three candidates — a
British consortium, a US company and a Greek firm backed by Arab
capital — to build and manage the infrastructure of the country's
special economic zone in Aqaba, an official said Wednesday.
The three are Hillwood Strategic Services owned by
US billionaire Ross Perot, Consolidated Contractor Co. of Athens and
the British consortium, made up by TCI Infrastructure Ltd., Investia
and Mersey Docks and Harbours Co., said Akel Baltaji, chairman of the
Special Economic Zone of Aqaba (SEZA).
Iraq, Algeria ink over $100 mln in contracts
Iraq and Algeria signed Tuesday contracts worth
more than 100 million dollars on the occasion of an Algerian business
delegation's visit to Baghdad, said Algerian minister for industry,
Abdelmadjid Menasra, who headed the delegation.
The contracts were signed within the context of the
United Nations' oil-for-food programme by some 56 Algerian firms, the
official INA news agency said.
It is the third time such a delegation has visited
Baghdad since January.
Iraqi Transport and Telecommunications Minister
Ahmed Mortada returned to Baghdad last Friday after a trip to Algeria,
where he co-chaired with Menasra the 12th session of the two
countries' "mixed commission".
Algerian exports to Iraq are estimated at 55
million dollars (63 million euros) for the first half of 2001.
Salalah port profits shoot up
Oman's Salalah Port Services (SPS) on Tuesday
announced a 182 per cent increase in net earnings to 2.4 million
dollars for the first half of 2001, up from 850,000 dollars for the
same period of last year.
Olive oil products
Bahrain slapped a ban Tuesday on three types of
olive oil from Spain and other countries and ordered them off the
market on fears they contain a substance that can cause cancer.
The ban affected three types of olive oil made from
pomace, or pulpy residue of olives, Trade Minister Ali Saleh Al-Saleh
said in a decree carried by the official GNA news agency.
All six Gulf Arab states suspended imports of
Spanish olive oil in early July after the Spanish health ministry
issued a "food safety alert" following the discovery of
benzopyrene in a particular brand.
Palestinian industry crushed by Israel
Palestinian industrial output has halved in 10
months of conflict with Israel but adaptability and outside aid are
keeping producers afloat, Industry Minister Saadi Al-Krunz said on
Israel's response to the Palestinian uprising
against occupation — sealing off Palestinian towns and blocking
direct imports and exports — had cost Palestinian manufacturers
close to one billion dollars, he said.
That included lost production of around $770
million, loss of investment opportunities, and bomb and demolition
damage at Palestinian factories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
estimated to have cost $20 million.
Iraq says US, Britain blocking more imports
Iraq accused the United States and Britain on
Monday of preventing it from buying badly needed goods under the UN
oil-for-food program, even as they sought to streamline the program to
ease its burden on the Iraqi people.
Baghdad said the value of contracts blocked under
the oil-for-food program had crept up to $3.5 billion after falling to
under $3 billion at the end of May, when Washington released some $800
million of contracts it had put on hold in the past.
"We appeal to you to put an end to this policy
of seeking vengeance on the people of Iraq, and we urge you to
intervene so that the holds ... may be lifted," Baghdad's UN
ambassador, Mohammed Aldouri, said in identical letters to the UN
Security Council and Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
"The policy of placing contracts on hold has
gone so far that it is no longer possible to remain silent,"
Turkey and Iran postpone gas exports
Ankara and Tehran agreed on Monday to postpone the
inauguration of Iranian gas exports to Turkey to give time for the
completion of technical problems on the Iranian side, the Turkish
energy minister said.
The flow of the gas, via a conduit from the
northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz to the Turkish capital Ankara, was
supposed to start on Monday.
But Turkey said that a metering station on the
Iranian side was not ready for operation, a claim that Tehran denied.