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Sep 24 - 30, 2001

Attack in US may cost Saudi investors $28bn

Saudi investors in the United States may lose up to $28 billion as a result of the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York and the subsequent closure of financial markets in the US, according to some media reports.

Saudi investors, whose foreign assets are estimated at $600 billion, are expected to suffer due to the anticipated losses and turmoil in the global financial markets, specially in the mutual funds and the insurance sector. Considerable Saudi investments have been made in these two sectors, analysts here point out.

"Insurance companies have incurred the biggest loss. The value of Saudi investments in joint funds in the local and foreign banks is estimated at $35 billion," Saeed Al-Shaikh, chief economist at the National Commercial Bank was quoted here as saying.

Saudi Deputy Finance Minister, however, ruled out any major impact of the attacks on the Saudi financial markets. He reconfirmed that the Saudi riyal pegged against a basket of currencies, mainly the dollar, has not been affected.

He did not confirm the projected loss of billions of dollars incurred by the Saudi and the Arab investors in the US financial markets, saying it would be premature to speak of any figure for the losses at this stage.

Saudi stocks meanwhile fell 4.3 per cent in the week to Thursday, affected by the shake-up in the global financial markets, following Tuesday's attacks on the US installations.

The all-share index published by Bakheet Financial Advisors (BFA) closed at 2472.56 down from 2582.52 the previous week and from an all time high of 2605.04 two weeks ago.

Traders say the index, which had been climbing throughout the year on the back of strong oil prices, fell 3.5 per cent on Tuesday as local investors off-loaded shares following news of the attack. The Saudi stock market dropped significantly over the last few days in harmony with the global stock market decline following the incidents in the US.

Gulf investors seen leaving funds in West markets

Gulf Arab investors are unlikely to offload huge assets abroad after last week's attacks in the United States sent world markets into a tailspin and sparked fears of global recession, bankers and analysts said on Tuesday.

They said some investors from the oil-rich region were eyeing bargain US stocks, while others were looking to European markets, but few were expected to bring their funds back home.

"Gulf investors are not speculators. They are long-term investors who have seen many economic downturns and upturns," Saud

Al-Saleh, general manager of Saudi Investment Bank, told Reuters.

The biggest vote of confidence in the US economy came on Monday from Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal as US markets reopened for the first time since the attacks on September 11.

"It would be very foolish and a big blunder to sell at this time. With deep regret for all that has been going on, there is a great opportunity to buy," said the prince, whose net worth is independently estimated at $20 billion.

"Those with a five to 10-year horizon, if they invest today they will not be sorry," added the prince, famed for high-profile international investments in media, banks, hotels, autos, real estate and technology.

As expected, US stock markets plunged on Monday, with investors shrugging off another interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve.

Gulf governments and wealthy individuals have poured much of their investments in the West, particularly US markets.

Economists could not provide an exact estimate for private Gulf Arab assets abroad, but said they stood at hundreds of billions of dollars.

"They (Gulf investors) are sophisticated enough to ride this out and not make panic decisions," a Western economist said.

"Some are even toying with the idea of seeing this as a buying opportunity."

Recipe for disaster

America is preparing for war. And when America goes to war it has a tendency to drag the entire world with it. As a wounded superpower, one currently blinded by a lethal combination of hubris and anger, it feels betrayed and humiliated.

Its "crusade", to use President Bush's unfortunate choice of word, will be directed against one of the world's most impoverished countries, Afghanistan, and its most famous resident, Osama Bin Laden.

American officials are calling it a war against terror, but even before the launch of the first missile of what would promise to be an intractable and confusing war it is quickly evolving into an ideological clash and a religious confrontation--a holy war, a crusade!

Never mind that a damning evidence linking Bin Laden to the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings is yet to be found and presented to the world.

Never mind that until now Bin Laden remains a "primary suspect" and that there are many puzzling and contradictory reports linked to this horrific affair.

UAE and Kuwait to pull students out of US

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait were Wednesday preparing to repatriate thousands of their students from the United States amid reports of growing bigotry towards Muslims over the terror attacks there last week.

The Dubai government daily Al-Bayan said the authorities had asked the UAE embassy in Washington to "coordinate with the cultural center and the American universities with a view to the return home of Emirati students."

It said the decision had been taken as "a preventive measure to guarantee the safety of Emirati students following growing persecution against Arabs and Muslims in the United States."

Israel's Mossad could be behind US attacks

A Syrian government paper on Wednesday cast doubts over the involvement of Osama Bin Laden in the September 11 attacks in the United States, saying Israel's secret service Mossad was a more likely culprit.

"One has to find out who benefits" from the attacks, Ath-Thawra said, saying this reasoning would lead to Israel, and not Arabs or Muslims.

The United States has named Bin Laden the "prime suspect" in the suicide plane attacks against the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington.

"Why not suspect Mossad of having sought to shake the United States and the world, upon directives from (Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon who wants to divert attention away from his aggressive plot, and link the attacks to the Arabs, the Muslims, and Osama Bin Laden", Ath-Thawra said.

"If Osama bin Laden really had at his disposal such fantastic capabilities, sophisticated electronic talents and a meticulous organization, as they (the Americans) claim, he would have directed all that against Israel for the simple reason that it is closer," the paper argued.

Gulf Arab ministers to meet on US terror attacks

Foreign ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will hold an extraordinary meeting here Sunday in the aftermath of the terror attacks in the United States, GCC sources said Wednesday.

The ministers will discuss "ways to coordinate positions and unify efforts toward the current developments" following the September 11 suicide attacks in New York and Washington and the US threat to launch a "crusade" against unspecified targets, an official at the GCC general secretariat told AFP.

The meeting was called by Bahrain, which currently holds the GCC presidency.

"Bahrain proposed holding this extraordinary meeting for talks and coordination on developments of the situation regionally and internationally," the official GNA news agency said.

But GCC Secretary General Jamil Al Hujailan ruled out an extraordinary Gulf summit, the Okaz newspaper said.

Emirates reviewing relations

The United Arab Emirates, one of only three states to recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan, is reviewing its ties with the Taliban following the attacks on the United States, a UAE official source said on Saturday.

The United States has named Osama bin Laden, who is sheltered by the Taliban, as a suspect in Tuesday's attacks. We are reviewing the relationship in view of the present situation," the UAE source said.

The UAE, along with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan's government in 1997 and maintains low-level diplomatic ties at the charge d'affaires level.

The official said the UAE had fully complied with sweeping UN Security Council sanctions imposed on Afghanistan in 1999, including halting direct flights, trade exchanges and receiving missions.

Saudi shares continue drop on US tentions

The Saudi stock market shed a further 2.3 percent in the week closing Thursday, unnerved by fears of US military action in retaliation for the September 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington.

The NCFEI all-shares index dropped to 2,415.03 points from 2,472.56 points the previous Thursday, Bakheet Financial Advisors (BFA) reported. But it is still 6.9 percent higher than at the start of the year.

Three nationals not involved in US attacks

Oman categorically denied Wednesday that three Omani nationals briefly detained in the Philippines were involved in the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

"It has not been proved that the three Omanis, whose names have not been mentioned by the office of the Philippines presidency, have a link with the attacks in New York and Washington," a spokesman said, quoted by the ONA news agency.

"These Omanis have been able to return home after visiting southeast Asia," the spokesman said, stressing that "information published by media on the implication of the three Omanis is completely baseless."

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo's office said Friday that police had briefly detained three Omanis who filmed the US embassy on September 8, three days before the deadly attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which left thousands dead.

The three Omanis with identified in Manila by the surname "Al Sheihhi" were questioned by police on why they were taking video footage of the embassy but were released after their tapes showed standard tourist scenes.

Israel's Peres hails Arafat declaration of ceasefire

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on Tuesday hailed the "important declaration" of a ceasefire by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a statement issued by his office said.

"This is an important declaration with positive elements, including his global commitment for peace and with explicit instructions for a ceasefire," Peres said in the statement.

"We must once again hail the tone adopted by Yasser Arafat and we hope this will continue," he said.

Peres said the ceasefire should include an end to all fighting that started with the Palestinian Intifada (uprising) against Israeli occupation.

Arafat said earlier he had reiterated his orders, first issued on Monday, to his security forces to observe a failed June ceasefire and exercise "maximum self-restraint in the face of Israeli aggression and attacks, even in self-defense."

Turkey to mount official First Index participation

Turkey is mounting its first official pavilion at Index 2001 - the Middle East's premier trade event for the furnishing and interiors industries - with a 17-strong delegation led by the country's Export Promotion Centre (IGEME).

"The pavilion will cover 522 squre metres and feature some of the most distinguished furnishing companies within Turkey," said Fusun Balikgioglu of IGEME.

"We anticipate considerable success as the Turkish interiors textile industry now has a dominant role in the worldwide industry, has progressed considerably over the past decade and meets the high standards of the European market.

"We are well on our way to becoming a world leader in the furnishings field with the largest industrial park for production of home textiles and Europe's largest factory for quilt covers."

Oman bourse revamps share listings to boost market

Oman's stock exchange has removed sluggish shares from the daily-traded segment of its market to help revive investor confidence, a bourse official said on Sunday.

Ahmed Mukaibil, the bourse`s trading department director, said the Muscat Securities Market trimmed the number of companies trading in the active secondary market to 93 from 138 and transferred 45 firms to the third market, where shares of privately held companies trade.

"The secondary market from today (Sunday) will include the most active shares, which have shown healthy profits in the last three years and good overall financial standing," Mukaibil said.

"It is part of the effort to improve trading in the Muscat Securities Market," he told Reuters.