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Sep 10 - 16, 2001

Saudi cuts crude output by 324,000 bpd

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia cut crude output by more than 320,000 barrels per day (bpd) Saturday in line with the cartel's decision to reduce production by one million bpd from September 1, a Saudi oil official said.

"We have cut our production to bring us in line with our new quota and we have informed our clients of this," the official, asking not to be named, told AFP.

Following the decision by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to slash output to bolster flagging prices, Saudi Arabia's quota was cut by 324,000 bpd to 7.541 million bpd from 7.865 million bpd.

Other OPEC member states "will respect their new quotas, despite claims that OPEC produced a surplus of 500,000 bpd over its August quota," fixed at 24.201 million bpd, added the official, whose country is the world's largest producer and exporter of oil.

The Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on Saturday quoted a Saudi oil ministry official as saying that the cut was instigated because of the "world recession which had negative repercussions on the oil market." "Recession and instability in the levels of crude demand necessitated restrictions in the supply of crude on the international market to preserve oil prices," he said.

A barrel of benchmark Brent North Sea crude for October delivery was selling in London on Friday for 26.27 dollars from 25.80 dollars a week earlier.

In New York, the light sweet crude October contract was little changed at 26.65 dollars a barrel from 26.80 dollars a week earlier.

UN moot: Arabs reject text

The Arab caucus at the UN World Conference Against Racism on Thursday rejected in its current form a last-minute text on the Middle East, a spokesman for the conference president said.

"They are not accepting the text as-is," said Ronnie Mamoepa, spokesman for South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is chairing the conference.

The text was the second produced after a walkout on Monday by the United States over "hateful" language on the Jewish state's treatment of Palestinians in the original, disputed, text which emerged from preparatory meetings.

The new document was presented to the caucuses at the conference in Durban as a "take-it-or-leave-it" text, Mamoepa said. If it is not accepted by all caucuses, he said, a small task force would probably be set up "to move the process forward", but the text would be suspended if that failed to obtain general agreement.

Earlier the European Union delegates accepted a revised Middle East declaration proposed by South Africa in a bid to prevent an European Union walkout from a stormy United Nations racism conference here. But the Arab grouping at the UN conference against racism, was still examining the draft text and would respond later, a Palestinian spokesman said.

"We are in the process of studying the text and we will respond this afternoon," said Salman el-Herfi, the representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in South Africa and a member of the Palestinian delegation to the conference.

South Africa put forward the compromise wording early on Thursday after talks on an initial text broke off during the night after discussions lasting all day on Wednesday.

The United States and Israel walked out of the conference on Monday over what they considered "offensive" language condemning Israeli practices towards the Palestinians in conference draft documents.

Yemen registers 1.75 bln trade surplus in 2000

Yemen's registered a trade surplus of 1.75 billion dollars last year, according to a report published by the official news agency SABA Wednesday.

Exports in 2000 totaled 4.07 billion dollars while imports amounted to 2.32 billion dollars, said the report, released after a meeting here of the Federation of Arab Chambers of Commerce and Industry..

Yemen's exports to Arab countries rose from 78.9 million dollars in 1999 to 210 million dollars in 2000.

Yemeni Vice-President Abdel Rabbo Mansur Hadi had on Monday deplored the fact that Arab investments in the Arab world were "130 times less than Arab investments abroad." "Arab investments in the region did not exceed 2.3 billion dollars in 2000, compared to 300 billion dollars abroad," he told the opening session of the Arab federation meeting.

Downturn in Bahrain's offshore banking sector

Bahrain's offshore banks recorded a 15.4 per cent downturn in profits last year, the Middle East Economic Survey reported Monday, questioning the future of the whole sector.

Bahrain's offshore banking "continues to display significant disparities in terms of activity, size and performance, calling into question the franchise of individual institutions and, to some extent, the future of the offshore sector as a whole in light of global moves toward fiscal harmonization," the authoritative Nicosia-based newsletter said.

Eight banks included in a MEES survey recorded a sectoral decline in net profits of 15.4 per cent, although individual performances ranged widely from Gulf International Bank's 75 per cent rise in net income to a decline of 99 per cent at Bahrain International Bank and an outright loss of 56.8 million dollars at BMB Investment Bank.

Assets for the sector rose by only 4.3 per cent in 2000, and latest information from the Bahrain Monetary Agency indicates that assets for the entire offshore banking sector fell at the end of June to 83.04 billion dollars compared to 90.33 billion dollars for the equivalent figure in 2000.

Jordan says IMF endorses economic reforms

The International Monetary Fund has endorsed Jordan's substantial progress so far in implementing structural reforms essential to boost a stronger economic recovery, Finance Minister Michel Marto said on Friday.

Marto said Jordan received high marks for its performance by an IMF-executive directors board meeting on Wednesday that assessed a third staff review of the three-year programme that ends in April 2002.

The meeting agreed to the disbursement of another $38 million under an $128 million SDR financing from an EFF (Extended Fund Facility), with the IMF saying Jordan was firmly set on the path of sustainable growth.

US to launch peace initiative for Sudan

The United States is preparing an initiative to mediate peace between Sudan's Muslim government and the Christian and animist groups fighting for autonomy in the south, US officials said Wednesday.

The plan, to include up to 30-million-dollars in humanitarian and relief aid, is to be led by former US senator John Danforth who the officials said would be named Washington's point man on Sudan on Thursday.

"We are working on the Danforth announcement now and we are also looking to increase our assistance to Sudan," said one senior official.

"It's no secret that Sudan is important to us and this initiative will demonstrate that," a second official said.

Dubai to host WB, IMF moot

Dubai has begun preparations for hosting a meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in 2003, hoping to enhance the emirate's image as a regional financial hub, officials said on Wednesday. The Gulf emirate on Wednesday signed a 240.4m dirham deal with Khansaheb Civil Engineering, a local contracting firm, to build a convention centre with a capacity to serve about 6,000 people.

Israeli missiles kill two Palestinians

An Israeli helicopter gunship fired missiles at a jeep in the West Bank town of Tulkarm on Thursday, killing two people and wounding an activist wanted by Israel, Palestinian officials said.

The Israeli army had no immediate comment. Israel has tracked and killed dozens of Palestinians it says are behind attacks against Israelis since a Palestinian uprising against occupation erupted last September.

Palestinian hospital officials said Mustafa Onbas, 19, and Omar Subuh, 21, both low-level members of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction were killed in the Apache helicopter strike on a Nissan jeep at the entrance to Tulkarm.

They said Raed al-Karmi, a Fatah activist wanted by Israel was also in the vehicle. He was wounded in the attack.

Saudi shares slip on profit-taking

The Saudi stocket market shed 0.9 per cent in the week closing Thursday as profit-taking ended a six-week run that had produced record highs.

The NCFEI all-shares index dropped to 2,582.52 points from a record 2,605.04 the previous Thursday, Bakheet Financial Advisors (BFA) reported. But it is still 14.4 per cent higher than at the start of the year.

Egyptian plane crash-lands

Around 250 passengers and crew escaped unhurt when an Egypt Air plane en route from Cairo to Abidjan crash-landed in northern Nigeria, airport officials and passengers said Wednesday.

The plane was attempting to make an emergency landing at the international airport in Kano, northern Nigeria's largest city, early on Tuesday when it suddenly nose-dived, they said.

Those aboard were Egyptians, Indians, Lebanese and Pakistanis. Most were business travelers, airport officials said.

Syria's Assad gets Saudi message

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad held talks on Tuesday with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister over what was described as the critical situation in the region and ways to reactivate Arab solidarity.

A Syrian presidential spokesman said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal also gave Assad a message from King Fahd dealing with coordination between their two countries.

"The talks covered the Israeli brutal actions against the Palestinian people and contacts to reactivate Arab solidarity," the spokesman said.

International Motor Show 2001

Motor Parts and Accessories 2001 to be held alongside the 6th Middle East International Motor Show will showcase more than 200 automobile products and services from manufacturers worldwide. The Motor Show will be held at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) from November 8 to 12, 2001.

"With the after-market getting fiercely competitive, the Motor Show will see a large number of first time exhibitors with innovative products & services indicating the expanding scope of the after-sales and service business in the region," said Panakj Nadkarni, International Project Manager, DWTC.

Bacteria to blame for fish catastrophe

Kuwaiti officials confirmed Tuesday that bacteria were responsible for the death of millions of fish in Kuwaiti waters in recent weeks.

"Breeding of the stretococcus bacteria, which was found in all samples of dead fish, was the reason," said Mohammad al-Sarawi, cited by the official KUNA news agency.

"The test results for the moment rule out chemical pollution or any poisoning," said Sarawi, head of Kuwait's Environment Public Authority.

Two thousand tonnes of dead fish have been washed up on the Kuwaiti coast in the last three weeks with more to come.

IDB hands Arab aid to Palestinians

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has delivered 45 million dollars to the Palestinian Authority, the first instalment of 165 million dollars earmarked for the uprising against Israel, a bank official told AFP on Sunday.

The Jeddah-based bank runs two Arab funds totaling one billion dollars set up by an Arab summit in Cairo last October to support the Palestinian intifada.

Saudi vacationers spent $14 bln abroad in 2000

Saudi nationals spent 14.4 billion dollars on foreign travel in 2000, while tourists to Saudi Arabia spent almost two billion dollars, the kingdom's top tourist official said in a report published Sunday.

"Saudi tourists spent over 100 million nights abroad in 4.4 million trips during the year 2000. On average, each night cost them 135 dollars, bringing the total spending to about 14.4 billion dollars," Prince Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud said, quoted in Arab News.

Prince Sultan, secretary general of the tourism commission, said he expected new investment in the domestic tourist sector to create at least 164,000 jobs for Saudi citizens.

Iraq to boost imports from Syria, Jordan

Iraq has agreed with Syria and Jordan to increase annual imports from both nations, Commerce Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh said on Saturday.

"We have agreed with Syria and Jordan to increase imports and bring them respectively to 1.5 billion and one billion dollars before the ened of the year," he said, cited by the official INA news agency.

"The accords with Syria and Jordan were decided in line with our policy of strengthening cooperation with our Arab brothers," he said.

Arab banking summit in October

Around 500 Arab ministers, central bank governors and bankers will meet on October 31 to coordinate positions for the November conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Doha.

Fouad Shaker, secretary general of the Union of Arab Banks (UAB), said in a press conference that the "Arab Banking Summit" will gather Arab League chief Amr Mussa and 17 Arab government ministers.

The meeting will also be attended by governors of Arab central banks as well as bankers and economists from the region, said Shaker.