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GULF

Oct 15 - 21, 2001

OIC opposes strikes on any other Muslim country

The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) on Wednesday opposed the spread of the US-led onslaught on the Taliban in Afghanistan to any other Muslim country.

The foreign ministers of the 57-member organization said in a joint statement at the end of an emergency meeting that they "rejected that any Islamic or Arab country is attacked under the pretext of the fight against terrorism".

The OIC did not condemn the US-led strikes on Afghanistan, but instead expressed "concern that they could cause victims among innocent civilians". It also demanded that the "territorial integrity and Islamic identity of Afghanistan be guaranteed".Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri on Tuesday predicted that his country could be next to face attack.

"We think that the United States may use this opportunity to...take vengeance against the Iraqi people because Iraq is not ready to surrender its territory to become a colony for the United States, Britain and Israel," he told reporters.

Earlier Qatar's Amir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, called for a united stance on terrorism.

Speaking on behalf of the ministers present, Sheikh Hamad also stressed the "need to provide concrete proof of the blame of presumed perpetrators" of last month's attacks in the United States.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov echoed the OIC appeal, telling a special meeting of Russia's upper house of parliament in Moscow: "The strikes against the territory of Afghanistan must be surgical. They must target specific individuals and not the Afghan people." At an earlier meeting in Doha on Tuesday, Arab League foreign ministers voiced support for the international fight against terrorism, but could not agree on a common position on the US-led military attacks on Afghanistan.

"We are all against international terrorism and we will not tolerate this phenomenon being linked to Islam," Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa said. "The UN should be the pivot of the fight against terrorism," he said.

OPEC oil prices remains below $22 for 10th day

The basket oil price used by OPEC to set its output remained below the cartel's target band floor of 22 dollars for a 10th day on Friday, the cartel said on Monday.

Under a price-band mechanism the 10-day period below the 22-28 dollar target range would trigger an automatic production cut of 500,000 barrels per day by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Earlier on Monday an OPEC spokesman said its ministers were consulting on on how to react to the start of US-led attacks on Afghanistan, and could make a statement later in the day.

The latest OPEC basket price, based on an average of seven world crudes, stood at 20.09 dollars on Friday, according to OPEC secretariat calculations Monday.

OPEC is struggling to react to slumping oil prices since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, but decided at a September 26 meeting to leave its production quotas unchanged.

New York mayor rejects Saudi prince's $10 million donation

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on Thursday rejected a $10 million donation from a Saudi prince, who while condoling the deaths of thousands of people in the Sept 11 attacks criticized the American policy in the Middle East.

The donor was Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Alsaud, one of the many foreign visitors, who have gone to the carnage scene of the World Trade Centre, known as ground zero, with the mayor since the trade centre attack last month. According to a report in the New York Times, the prince, who is the chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company and was No. 6 in July on the Forbes list of the world's richest people, attended a memorial service at the site with Mr Giuliani.

There, he gave the mayor a check of $10 million for the Twin Towers Fund, a charity set up by the mayor primarily for survivors of uniformed workers, who died. Mr Giuliani initially accepted the check. With the check was a letter from the prince, in which he expressed his condolences for "the loss of life that the city of New York has suffered."

The letter continued, "I would also like to condemn all forms of terrorism, and in doing so I am reiterating Saudi Arabia's strong stance against these tragic and horrendous acts." But the letter did not say what a news release attached to a copy of the letter did: "However, at times like this one, we must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack. I believe the government of the United States of America should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance towards the Palestinian cause."

The news release attributed the statement to the prince. The sentiment reflected the tack the Saudis have generally taken, condemning the Sept 11 attacks while trying to be supportive of the Palestinian cause. "Our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis while the world turns the other cheek", the release read.

Muslim states to discuss effects of WTO membership

Representatives of over 50 Muslim countries will meet in Jeddah to discuss the effect joining the World Trade Organization could have on their economies.

Delegates from the WTO, as well as regional and international bodies, will be taking part. The officials from member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference are meeting ahead of a WTO conference in Qatar next month.

Sources say they will seek to affirm their countries' desire to become active partners in the new world economic order, resulting from the liberalization of international trade and the dismantling of trade barriers between nations.

The two-day meeting is being hosted by the Islamic Development Bank which has in the past hosted similar consultative gatherings for OIC countries as part of a series of seminars suggested by the OIC Standing Committee on Economic and Commercial Cooperation.

US hints at military action against Syria

The United States said on Thursday it could take military action against countries like Syria later in its campaign against terrorism if they do not comply with the demands of Washington and its allies.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage also told reporters the targets in the campaign include all groups that threaten the interests of the United States and US allies.

In a later news conference, President George W. Bush said the United States took Syrian offers of help in the fight against terrorism seriously but wanted to see results, not just words.

"The Syrians have talked to us about how they can help in the war against terrorism. We take that seriously and we'll give them an opportunity to do so," Bush said. But he added:"I'm a performance-oriented person. I believe in results."

The United States says it is concentrating for the moment on its attacks on the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization, which it blames for the Sept. 11 suicide attacks on New York and Washington.

"Ones (organizations) that are trying to hurt allied and US interests, I think that's in the main where we will concentrate next," said Armitage. "We know who has global reach and is a threat to the United States and our allies."

Asked what the consequences would be if countries like Syria do not meet US expectations, he said: "The consequences might be whatever the coalition finds worthy and it runs the gamut from isolation to financial investigations, all the way up through possibly military action."

The United States has Syria on its list of "state sponsors of terrorism" because it hosts Lebanese and Palestinian organizations that attack US ally Israel. Syria says the international community should distinguish between terrorism and groups fighting to free occupied land.

Bush reiterates support for Palestinian state

US President George W. Bush on Thursday reiterated his support for a Palestinian state as long as it recognizes Israel's right to exist and said he was taking "seriously" Syria's offer to help in the global war on terrorism.

"I believe there ought to be a Palestinian state, the boundaries of which will be negotiated by the parties so long as the Palestinian state recognizes the right of Israel to exist, and will treat Israel with respect, and will be peaceful on her borders," Bush said in his first prime-time nationally televised press conference.

Israeli press reports said Bush was preparing to become further involved in a region that he had largely left to itself before the September 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

They said he would push for establishing a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, the aim of the Palestinians but anathema to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government. To add insult to injury, the reports said the plan had been communicated to Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, but not to Israel.

2 die in S. Arabia explosion

Two people were killed and four others were wounded, all foreigners, when an explosion ripped through an electronics shop in eastern Saudi Arabia, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The agency quoted a police spokesman as saying that the explosion occurred at about 8 pm local time (1700 GMT) in front of the shop on King Khalid Street, a shopping area, in the city of al-Khobar. "Concerned security authorities started investigating the reasons behind the explosion. Details on the nationalities of the dead and wounded will be issued later," the spokesman said.

Khobar was the scene of a truck bomb attack in 1996 that killed 19 US servicemen. It was not immediately clear if foreigners were the target of Saturday's explosion.

Qatar LNG awards contract

Qatar Liquefied Gas Co. gave a Technip and Chiyoda joint venture a 100 million euro contract to expand the LNG facility at Ras Laffan on the northeast coast of Qatar.

They will conduct detailed engineering, procurement, and construction for the debottlenecking of three liquefied natural gas trains.

The services and works mainly involve replacing or upgrading some of the key process equipment such as compressors and turbines in order to expand the capacity of each of the trains from 2 to 3 million tons/year. Work will be executed during four shutdowns scheduled between 2002 and 2005, the duration of which will be limited to about 1 month each.

Atofina joins project

Qatar Petroleum Co. Tuesday signed a preliminary deal for construction of what could eventually become the world's largest ethane cracker.

The 1 million tonne/year plant at Ras Laffan Industrial City would come on stream in the second half of 2006. If expanded to 1.5 million tonnes/year in the second phase, sponsors said it would be the largest such unit in the world.

A final contract is due to be signed before yearend. Value of the project was not given. Partners will be Qatar Petroleum, Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LLC, Chevron Phillips International Qatar Holdings LLC, Atofina SA, and Qatar Petrochemical Co. Ltd. (QAPCO), an affiliate of Qatar Petroleum.

ADFD launches projects in Egypt

The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) is currently undertaking major agricultural, health and housing projects in Egypt.

ADFD Director General Saeed Khalfan Al Rumaithi said the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation had taken delivery of the Sheikh Zayed Canal in east Sinai and the extension of the Hamam Canal.

"The two water projects cost about $85 million and the first one is designed to carry Nile water through sub-water pipe under the Suez Canal to irrigate 40,000 acres in the east canal, while the second will irrigate 148,000 acres," he said.

These projects were ordered by President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Canadian shot dead in Kuwait

A Canadian man was shot dead and his wife seriously injured in a drive-by shooting Wednesday night as they strolled along a beach south of Kuwait City, security sources said.

The man, identified only as Luke, worked as an aircraft technician at the emirate's Ahmd Al-Jabr airbase, the sources said.

His wife was hit by at least three bullets and was intensive care in the nearby Al-Adan Adan hospital.

She told police that a car had stopped near where the couple were walking just before midnight and opened fire showering the couple with bullets.

Kuwait to strip Bin Laden spokesman of nationality

Kuwait is stripping Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the official spokesman for Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, of his nationality, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported Wednesday.

KUNA said Kuwait's First Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah told local newspaper editors in a meeting that his government would withdraw Abu Ghaith's nationality because of his links to "recent terrorist acts."

Sheikh Sabah said Kuwait denounced Abu Ghaith's "terrorist actions" and his alleged links to the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, KUNA said.

Israeli tanks, bulldozers raze farmland in Gaza incursion

Israeli armored bulldozers and tanks moved several hundred meters (yards) into Palestinian-controlled territory in the southern Gaza Strip Wednesday, razing farmland near a Jewish settlement, a senior Palestinian security official said.

Khaled Abu Alola, the Palestinian liaison head of the southern Gaza sector, said three Israeli tanks and four bulldozers flattened a swathe of farmland and cut down olive trees close to near the Palestinian town of Al Karara, which is close to the Gush Katif Jewish settlement bloc.

He said the army had carried out several incursions in the sector in the past three days, and accused the Israelis of seizing Palestinian land to build a road to the settlements.

Iran medical centers ready

Medical and emergency centers in Iran's eastern Sistan Balochistan province are "ready" to take in any possible Afghan victims of the US and British military strikes against Afghanistan, the state IRNA news agency said Monday.

Citing a provincial official, IRNA said some 200 medical centers were "ready to take in and provide (medical) aid" to possible injured Afghan nationals.

Iranian aid teams are also ready to travel to the refugee camps which have been set up on Afghan territory close to Iran's eastern border with the country, IRNA said.

Israel shells Lebanese border region

Israeli forces holding the occupied Shebaa Farms region on the Lebanese border shelled two southern Lebanese villages Sunday, causing no casualties, police said.

Israeli tanks fired seven shells and bursts of automatic weapon fire on the villages of Shebaa and Kfar Shuba in the space of half an hour. At the same time Israeli helicopters flew over the area.

Last Wednesday, Hizbollah fighters fired mortar rounds on Israeli positions in the Shebaa Farms, triggering Israeli retaliatory fire.

Tourism to Islamic countries

Iran has put forward a plan aimed at promoting tourism to Islamic countries in the wake of the attacks on the United States, a senior official said on Wednesday.

The attacks had painted a negative picture of Islamic countries and affected tourism but the fallout could be softened through cooperation, said Mohammad Moeziddin, secretary general of Iran's Tourism Supreme Council.

"I have made a proposal to arrange for a special plan for this kind of cooperation between our countries to decrease the impact of the attacks in the US," he said.

Mohammad, who is also Iran's deputy minister of culture and islamic guidance, was speaking to reporters after the opening of a meeting of officials ahead of the Second Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers.

UAE cracks down on money laundering

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced Tuesday a new law cracking down on money laundering as part of world-wide efforts to dry up financial resources for alleged terrorism.

Offenders face up to seven years in jail and fines of 300,000 dirhams (82,000 dollars) for transferring or depositing hot money with intent to conceal its origin.

Money linked to illegal arms deals, drug trafficking, kidnapping, piracy, terrorism and corruption all fall under the legislation rubber-stamped Tuesday by the government, the Emirati news agency WAM reported.

A special anti-money laundering cell will also be set up at the Central Bank which on September 27 ordered the freezing of accounts and investments of 26 individuals and organisations suspected of financing alleged terrorist activities.

Jordan cuts interest rates

Jordan's central bank will cut its discount rate one half point on Sunday to 5 per cent following similar actions abroad in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks on the United States, its governor said.

Omaya Tukan told the press that half-point cuts will also be applied to the weekly refinance rate, to 6 per cent, and the interbank rate, to 3.75 per cent.

Iraqi paper: US seeking to control oil-rich Caspian

An Iraqi government newspaper accused the United States Saturday of seeking to exploit its war against terrorism to control the oil-rich Caspian basin.

One of the objectives the United States is trying to achieve under the guise of combating terrorism is "to control the Caspian Sea region which, according to oil experts, sits on reserves that could make Western industries operate for decades," Al-Jumhuriya said.

Washington also wants to "check the ability of the region's nuclear-capable countries to play a role that would run counter to US strategic objectives," the paper said without further explanation.

Islamic banks deny financing terrorism

Islamic banks are not involved in financing terrorism, the Bahrain-based General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions insisted Thursday.

In a statement, the council's secretary general Ezzedin Khuja said none of its 34 members in Bangladesh, Bahrain, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan "are involved in any way in financing terrorist operations or illegal acts." "The institutions operate under precise norms and rules under the control of the central authorities of a sovereign state ... and in total transparency," he said.

He condemned all forms of terrorism and complained of a "tendentious campaign" in the West to link Islamic banks to the US terror attacks of September 11.

Mohammed, Hariri visit Dubai Internet City

General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister accompanied visiting Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Al Hariri, on a tour or Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City.