Aug 13 -
19 , 2001
Iranian investment hit by US curbs
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on
Saturday that the US sanctions were hampering Iran's drive for foreign
investment and technology to modernize its ageing oil sector.
Zanganeh's remarks came a day after US President
George W. Bush signed a five-year extension of sanctions against Iran
and Libya to curb foreign investment in their oil and gas sectors.
Although there have been some foreign venture in Iran's oil and gas
industries in the form of "buy-back" deals, Tehran is keen
for cooperation with the US companies.
"Eighty per cent of oil companies in the world
are American. Neither us nor American firms are benefiting from these
sanctions," Zanganeh told IRNA. Zanganeh said Iran needed foreign
investment and technological assistance to boost its oil production
capacity and develop its vast untapped natural gas reserves.
"To maintain our Opec quota and share of the
world market, we have no choice but make new investment in the
upstream oil sector," he said. "If we do not do so, our
neighbours will continue to develop (offshore) fields they have in
common with us. They are not going to wait for us to start."
The minister said Iranian oil facilities were at
least 30 years old, adding that production had fallen by 1.5 million
barrels a day in the past five years because of ageing facilities.
Some 80 per cent of an estimated one million square kilometres of
fossil layers in Iran remain unexplored due to lack of investment, he
The situation is equally dismal in the gas sector.
"We have the world's second largest gas reserves, but we are
exporting little gas due to the lack of investment," Zanganeh
said, putting Iran's gas reserves at 26 trillion cubic metres.
IMF approves $1.51bn cash for Turkey
The International Monetary Fund on Friday approved
a $1.51 billion disbursement for Turkey from the nation's existing
loan of $15.7 billion and said there were signs that the economic
slump there is bottoming out.
The money, which will be made available
immediately, was freed up after a discussion at the IMF's board that
took most of the day. IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley
Fischer traveled to Ankara recently to review Turkey's progress on
economic reforms personally.
Turkey found IMF approval easier to obtain than it
did at the last IMF review in early July, when the lender froze
payments to Ankara for about two weeks over because authorities failed
to deliver on all of the promises made in return for the rescue
The money will help Turkey steady its economy after
a difficult banking crisis earlier this year that forced the nation to
float its lira, a move that caused the currency to lose almost 50 per
cent of its value. Fischer was fulsome in his praise, saying Ankara
had made considerable progress on economic reforms that are, creating
the basis for a lasting reduction in inflation and a dynamic economy
generating sustainable growth.
There are encouraging signs that the economic
downturn is bottoming out, and that the targeted lowering of inflation
is materializing, which could permit declines in interest rates,
Fischer said in a statement after the board meeting. Lowering interest
rates is key to helping Turkey meet its heavy debt rollover
requirements in the coming months.
Earlier on Friday, Turkish Economy Minister Kemal
Dervis said his country had more or less overcome six months of
financial crisis. We will overcome the crisis. We have overcome it,
more or less, Dervis told reporters on Friday. We have put in place
some balances. But while Fischer said the government had improved
recently, he said that they should try to communicate more effectively
to investors and other observers to help build market confidence.
Khatami sworn in for second term
Iran's reformist President Mohammad Khatami was
officially sworn in for a second and final four-year term on
Wednesday, calling for democracy and political openness in the country
and for dialogue with his conservative rivals.
In an address after his investiture, Khatami, 57,
also appealed for an end to hatred and violence in politics. He urged
the "establishment of religious democracy (and) reinforcement of
the civil institutions" in Iran, and said he was determined to
defend "the fundamental rights of the people, legitimate
liberties, a free press and civil institutions."
The ceremony, which took place in the parliament
chamber, began after the playing of the national anthem and the
reading of verses from the Holy Quran. The investiture was witnessed
not only by deputies, but also by leading figures of the Islamic
regime and the diplomatic corps. Khatami, who was re-elected by a
landslide vote of nearly 80 per cent in June, had been set to be sworn
in last Sunday. However, that was delayed by supreme leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei due to an institutional dispute between the reformist-
dominated parliament and the conservative-controlled judiciary.
Beirut banks eye fee business as loan
Lebanon's banks will turn to retail services and
other fee-earning business to help make up for conservative lending
policies forced on them by the country's economic woes, bankers and
analysts said on Tuesday.
Many of the country's leading banks reported
stagnant or falling first-half profits, and said that macroeconomic
pressures were forcing them to adopt conservative lending strategies
to reduce the ratio of bad loans in their portfolio.
The Lebanese government, with debt of over $24
billion or about 155 per cent of GDP, is facing mounting pressure on
the currency while it turns to politically sensitive plans for fiscal
reform and privatisation to cope with the debt and end several years
Local banks, meanwhile, are major holders of
Lebanese pound-denominated debt, whose prices would drop with a
devaluation. While reducing lending, they are seeking to draw income
from retail services, such as processing payments of mobile phone and
utility bills and offering Internet bank accounts and services, said a
strategist for one bank.
Iraq's weekly oil sales surge to 17 mln barrels
Iraq's oil sales under UN supervision surged to 17
million barrels last week, from 12 million the previous week, the
office administering the UN oil-for-food programme said Tuesday.
In the week ending August 3, there were six
loadings at Iraq's Gulf port of Mina al-Bakr and three at the Turkish
Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, the only two export outlets authorised
under the UN sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990.
The average price of Iraqi oil last week was around
21.96 dollars (25 euros) a barrel, and the sales earned an estimated
356 million dollars (404 million euros), the office said in its weekly
Iraq has exported 51.7 million barrels of crude
since July 4, the start of the current phase of the programme. The
phase is the 10th since the programme was established in December 1996
to enable Iraq to import essential goods under UN supervision.
Four new purchase contracts for nine million
barrels of crude were approved last week by the UN oil overseers and
the sanctions committee, taking to 69 the number of contracts awaiting
completion in the current phase.
Egypt devalues pound-dollar rate
Egypt has devalued its core pound-dollar rate to
4.15 from 3.90 previously and broadened the band in which it allows
the currency to trade either side of it, the Central Bank said on
"The band for banks and non-bank dealers is
plus or minus 3.00 per cent," the Central Bank said.
The band was previously 1.5 or two per cent either
side of the 3.90 core pound-dollar rate, depending on the currency.
The devaluation of the core pound-dollar rate is
six per cent, and at it weakest the new band allows it to trade to
The government has been trying to stabilise the
exchange rate after intermittent dollar shortages over the past three
years, and has come under increasing pressure from foreign analysts
and ratings agencies to introduce a more flexible exchange rate in
line with market forces.
2 die in Bahrain blast
Two Bahraini soldiers were killed and 10 others
were injured on Sunday when a bomb exploded during a military
exercise, the Gulf News Agency reported.
Fatah leader escapes Israeli rocket attack
Israel launched a rocket attack against a top
official of the Fatah movement of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on
Saturday, stepping up its policy of targeting Palestinians seen as a
threat to the Jewish state.
Israeli forces fired missiles at the three-car
convoy of Marwan Barghuti, Fatah secretary general in the West Bank,
as he was leaving his offices in Ramallah, Barghuti and witnesses
said. When asked if he thought he had been targeted by the Israelis,
he replied: "Yes, of course".
Israel storms the Orient House
Israeli police seized the main Palestinian
headquarters in and around East Jerusalem on Friday in a deeply
symbolic campaign to assert control over the city after a Palestinian
suicide bombing killed 15 people.
Israeli fighter jets, described by the Palestinians
as F-16s, also flattened a police post in the West Bank and tanks
levelled a Gaza Strip police position in response to the bombing at a
West Jerusalem pizza restaurant packed with families.
The suicide attack was the worst in Jerusalem since
a Palestinian uprising erupted over 10 months ago after peace talks
Israel's takeover of the Palestine Liberation
Organisation's East Jerusalem headquarters, known as Orient House, and
nine other offices nearby was sure to anger the Palestinians and
provoke a strong reaction.
Egypt demands US action against Israel
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher urged the
United States Monday to do more to rein in Israel for its targetted
attacks on Palestinians, saying his country was "astonished"
at the lack of US action.
Maher told reporters he had informed US charge
d'affaires in Cairo, Reno Harnsh, that Egypt "cannot accept this
Israeli behaviour which is unacceptable for any civilised state which
believes in the law." "I told him Egypt is astonished that
the United States has not reacted with the necessary firmness to this
Israeli behaviour," he said quoting recent Israeli attacks on the
cars and homes of "Israel's current policy is immoral, illegal
and ineffective," he said, warning that it would only provoke
more anti-Israeli attacks and expose western interests to danger.
Iraq set on developing anti-aircraft defences
Iraq is intent on further developing anti-aircraft
defences with the aim of shooting down US and British war planes that
fly over its territory, an official Baghdad newspaper warned Sunday.
"We promise the US administration that we will
work harder to develop our anti-aircraft defences and shoot at any
plane that attacks us no matter where it comes from," said
Ath-Thawra, mouthpiece of the ruling Baath party.
The move to boost Iraq's defences was "only a
threat to those whose attack us and try to harm our people," the
Saudi stocks' annual gains seen higher
Saudi stocks are expected to have outstripped last
year's 11.3 per cent rise by the end of 2001, pushed higher by firm
oil prices, strong blue chips and economic reforms, Saudi economists
said on Wednesday.
However, they warned the market — which on
Tuesday reached an all-time high — could be held back from even
higher gains by concern over political instability in the Middle East
and the continued absence of a regulated market.
The Saudi all-share index has climbed 11.6 per cent
so far this year. On Tuesday, it closed at 2,521.65 points, the
highest level since the index was launched in 1985.
Iran seeks partner for Armenian gas pipeline
A top Iranian diplomat said on Thursday that
Teheran needs to find a third partner before it can launch the
construction of a natural gas pipeline to Armenia.
The announcement is a blow for Armenia, which hopes
that the proposed 140-kilometer (48-mile) line will solve its
persistent energy shortages. Armenia had earlier announced that
construction on the 140-million-dollar project would begin by the end
of the year.
However Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Akhani
said on a Thursday visit to Moscow that "it would be welcome if a
third state became interested in this project." In that case Iran
and Armenia "would take more decisive action in the near future,
which would lead directly to the start of construction of the gas
pipeline," Interfax quoted Akhani as saying.
Kuwaiti stocks edge up amid lull in summer trading
The Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE) closed the week
Wednesday slightly up amid a traditional summer lull in trading and
The KSE index closed at 1,699.7 points, up 0.2 per
cent on the week and 26 per cent on the year, but still down 40.1 per
cent on its all-time high of November 1997.
The average value of daily trading on the bourse
was below 30 million dollars, up from last year's 16 million. It was
down from an average of 42 million dollars in the first half of 2001
and well below the 1997 average of 134 million dollars.
The market has boomed over the past few months,
with the index rallying past the 1,700-point barrier for the first
time since December 1998 after dropping to a five-year low in January.
The market's capitalisation has increased by some
30 per cent to 26 billion dollars since the start of the year, just
below its 1997 peak of around 30 billion.
Aqaba port for trade
Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb urged Iraq
to ship goods via Jordan's cutting edge port city of Aqaba on the Red
Sea, the official Petra news agency said Friday.
Abu Ragheb was speaking during a meeting with Iraqi
Trade Minister Mohamed Mahdi Saleh in Amman, the agency said.
"The prime minister appealed to the Iraqi side
during this meeting to increase its exports through the Jordanian port
of Aqaba," Petra said.
The government has reduced port tariffs since July
Iraq aims to increase its oil reserves to 270
billion barrels and overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's top
reservoir, Oil Minister Amer Rashid was quoted Saturday as saying.
"By transforming potential reserves into
proven reserves, Iraq will occupy the top position in the world with
270 billion barrels and overtake Saudi Arabia," Rashid said in a
government daily, Al-Jumhuriya.
"To achieve this objective, we must step up
efforts in oil prospecting in Iraq," the minister said.
Iraq's proven reserves currently stand at 112
billion barrels, leaving it in second place behind Saudi Arabia, whose
reserves are estimated at 261 billion barrels.