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 5. TRADE  6. GULF



Oct 29 - Nov 04, 2001

Saudi Arabia slams Western media

Saudi Arabia has strongly attacked the Western media for criticising its position on terrorism.

In a speech published on Thursday, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abd Ulaziz who effectively runs the country called it a smear campaign inspired by hatred of Islam.

Several US senators, as well as the US media, have accused Saudi Arabia of not doing enough in the war against terror a charge it vehemently denies.

"The vicious western media attack against the Kingdom is only because of the ancient spite against Islam," the Saudi crown prince was quoted as saying.

He said that his government would not compromise on the issue of defending its religion or the nation strong words from a strong leader and ones which were dutifully reprinted by the government controlled-press.

The speech follows repeated accusations in the Western media that Saudi Arabia is partly to blame for supporting extremist Islamic groups outside the country.

Until recently, Saudi Arabia was one of only three countries to maintain ties with Afghanistan's Taleban rulers.

Some US senators have also criticised Saudi Arabia for not doing more to support the US led war on terrorism, but that charge has been denied in public by both the Saudi and US governments.

Last Sunday, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said both Egypt and Saudi Arabia had responded to every request the US had made of them.

But most Saudis find it hard to accept that hostile opinions voiced in the Western media are not directed by Western governments.

Since they have never known a free press in their own country, many assume that Western media criticism in some way reflects official government policy.

Riyadh boycotts German firm for Israel dealings

Saudi Arabia has placed a German firm on its blacklist for having supplied the kingdom with wheat fibre from Israel, officials said Thursday.

J. Rettenmaier & Soehne GmbH (JRS) was placed on the blacklist following the shipment to Saudi Arabia of 24 bags of wheat fibre bearing the "star of David and Hebrew inscriptions," said a statement by the trade ministry.

The shipment had been seized by customs officials while the Saudi importer of the wheat fibre has been summoned by authorities for interrogation, it said.

"The German firm has been placed on the blacklist of boycotted companies, and instructions have been given to quality control laboratories to reject all its future shipments," a ministry spokesman was quoted as saying.

Economic test for Egypt

The Egyptian government is facing the first serious test of the new currency regime it introduced in August.

Egypt earns most of its dollars from foreign visitors, many of whom are reluctant to travel following the 11 September attacks in the US.

There are no figures as yet as to how much tourism has fallen in the past month, but officials forecast a 30% to 50% drop in the next year.

If the currency weakens as a result as many analysts think is likely the government may be tempted to discard its new policy and try and control the currency market.

Egypt devalued its currency by 6% in August, under pressure from the financial markets. It also broadened the band within which the pound traded against the US dollar.

By making it easier for Egyptians to buy dollars, the previously flourishing local black market all but vanished.

However a weakening pound may tempt the government to re-introduce restrictions.

The currency fell close to the lower limit of its trading band, at about 4.26 to the dollar in the immediate aftermath of the US attacks. It has recovered, though some analysts forecast it could fall further.

Egyptian government officials now warn that tourism receipts about $3.24bn last year could fall between 30% and 50% in the next year.

Egypt does get foreign exchange from other sources, such as exports and remittances from Egyptian workers in Arab Gulf states.

Tourism fell 20% in the year following the attack on tourists at Luxor in 1997, but soon recovered, Navaid Farooq, Egypt analyst at US ratings agency Standard &Poor's.

IMF grants 121 million dollars to Yemen

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has authorized 121 million dollars in disbursements for Yemen, after examining the country's economic performance under a poverty reduction program.

Of that sum, 87 million dollars was provided under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) and an additional 34 million was set aside under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), the IMF said Wednesday in a statment. In all, the IMF has authorized some 303 million dollars for Yemen under the PRGF and 59 million under the EFF.

"Yemen has successfully consolidated the gains achieved in macroeconomic stability in recent years. Macroeconomic policies remain on track and, despite setbacks in some areas, progress has been made in the structural reform agenda," IMF Deputy Managing Director Shigemitsu Sugisaki said in a statement.

"Accordingly, the IMF has decided to complete the reviews and grant the necessary waivers with respect to the structural performance criteria that were not observed," he added.

Summit on African economic plan discusses priority projects

A dozen African leaders attending a summit in Nigeria on an economic rescue plan for the continent were Tuesday discussing funding and identification of priority projects, officials told AFP.

Behind closed doors, heads of state and government at the Abuja talks were considering how the African New Initiative (NAI) will be funded and looking at priority projects to be executed, they said.

Proposals on these issues have been put to the leaders by an NAI steering committee.

According to an official agenda, a copy of which AFP obtained, other issues due for discussion were a name for the body set up to implement the plan, its governing structure, its secretariat, a marketing strategy and a program of work.

These institutions should be operating at least until the next meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The OAU first endorsed the initiative in July, during the last summit of the pan-African body before it is transformed into a more close-knit African Union.

On the issue of a secretariat for the organization, South Africa has "graciously agreed" to host it, one source told AFP.

The summit was also expected to discuss a proposal by the European Union to have permanent representation at the NAI secretariat.

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo urged his colleagues attending the meeting to prove cynics wrong and ensure that an economic rescue plan for Africa succeeds.

"It is only when we demonstrate sufficient commitment, responsibility and ownership that donors, partners and investors will respond positively," Obasanjo said.

The summit was being held formally to launch the NAI, a plan aimed at lifting the continent out of poverty and war and promoting sustainable growth.

It was the first meeting since the OAU summit in Lusaka last July 12 endorsed the NAI and approved the establishment of the Implementation Committee of Heads of State and Government.

Israelis kill 15 Palestinians

Israeli soldiers killed 15 Palestinians in overnight and early morning fighting on Wednesday, in the bloodiest day since the intifada began 13 months ago.

A sixteenth Palestinian died in Ramallah of wounds sustained in fighting four days ago.

The Israeli action comes despite reports that Israeli troops will soon end their crippling siege of six Palestinian cities in the West Bank, following massive international pressure.

Responding to U.S. demands for an immediate withdrawal, a defiant Premier Ariel Sharon told the Israeli Knesset (parliament) the army would stay until it achieved its mission, which he defined as "avoiding terrorism and arresting terrorists".

"(Palestinian President Yassir) Arafat does not arrest, so we arrest," he said.

Iraqis ponder Afghan conflict

Sabiha al-Dulaimi wipes her eyes, sighs heavily, and turns away.

For her, the scenes of wounded Afghan children being broadcast extensively on Iraqi television are almost too painful to bear.

They bring back too many memories of her own tragedy a decade ago. Mrs al-Dulaimi, who still dresses in black, lost four of her five children when American bombs hit the el-Amiriya shelter on the outskirts of Baghdad during US-led efforts to force Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991.

"May God destroy the Americans," she says.

Define terrorism, urges Gaddafi

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has entered the debate on terrorism telling a TV interviewer that the US might just as well bomb London if it is serious about fighting terrorism.

"If the United States wants seriously to eradicate terrorism, the first capital that should be pounded with cruise missiles is London," Colonel Gaddafi said on the Arabic satellite news channel al-Jazeera.

"It is the shelter of terrorism," he added, referring to charges that Islamic militants suspected of violence are protected by Britain's policies on political asylum.

Colonel Gaddafi, who said that the US had the right to respond to the 11 September terrorist attacks, called for an international conference to define terrorism and then fight it.

Kuwait fears Bin Laden funding link

Kuwait's Information Minister Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Ahmad al-Sabah says his government believes some Kuwaitis have been trying to send money to Osama Bin Laden's organisation, al-Qaeda.

Speaking to the BBC in Kuwait on Monday, he said Kuwait was now trying to regulate certain Islamic charities which pro-Western Kuwaitis suspect have been funding terror.

Saudi mufti bans killing non-Muslims

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Shaikh, has issued a ruling banning the killing of non-Muslims in Islamic countries. The statement follows a recent warning by Osama Bin Laden's organisation, al-Qaeda, for all Britons and Americans to leave the Arabian peninsula.

Oil price hits new two-year low

Oil prices opened at their lowest level for more than two years Wednesday, as sentiment was weighed down by plentiful reserves and disagreement among producers about how to rein in supply.

A barrel of Brent North Sea crude for December delivery opened at 20.66 dollars its lowest opening value since August 1999, after closing on Tuesday at 20.94 dollars. The New York light sweet crude November contract ended Tuesday at 21.85 dollars a barrel, up nine cents.

Oil prices have fallen around 25 per cent since last month's attacks on the United States, as investors expect demand to contract along with global economic growth.

Dubai Motor Show

The 6th Middle East International Motor Show organised by the Dubai World Trade Centre from November 8-12, 2001 will showcase the latest models, concept cars and designs from the titans of European automobile industry.

The leading continental automobile manufactures, renowned for their precision engineering and innovative designs including Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Peugeot, Audi and Volkswagen to name a few, will exhibit their latest models at the Motor Show.

The all-new BMW 7-Series will be the star attraction at the BMW Group stand at the Motor Show. A refined 8-cylinder, 4.4 litre engine producing 333 horsepower, and the world's first 6-speed automatic transmission powers the car. BMW will introduce the much-awaited MINI in the Middle East region for the first time at Dubai Motor Show.

Abu Dhabi Fund takes interest in Aqaba projects

Abu Dhabi Fund for Development intends to help finance five infrastructure projects in Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ) at a total cost of $250 mln. , an official from the fund stated Sunday.

Fund Technical Advisor Jareer Al-Dajani said ASEZ was moving in the right direction and all means of success that encourage investment are there including investment laws and legislation, sea, land and air transport facilities as well as the distinctive geographic location.

Dajani is currently on a visit to ASEZ , accompanied by expert delegation to study the five projects presented by ASEZ . A delegation from the fund had already met ASEZ President and listened to a briefing on the zone's future plans and objectives designed to attract local and foreign investment.

Saudi Basic Industries Co

The Saudi Basic Industries Co. (SABIC) said Sunday it posted a net profit of 501 million dollars in the first nine months of this year, a plunge of 37 per cent from the same period last year.

The corporation's sales in the first nine months rose to 6.1 billion dollars compared to 5.66 billion in 2000. Total production in the first nine months was 26.3 million tons, an increase of 27 per cent over the same period last year. Sales reached 20.6 million tons, also an increase of 27 per cent.

Kuwait supports OPEC moves to raise oil prices

Kuwait has said it supports OPEC moves to push world oil prices up into the cartel's price band of between 22 and 28 dollars a barrel.

"Since the last OPEC meeting, oil prices have been on a continuous decline. We therefore support any decision by OPEC members to increase oil prices to the lowest half of the the price range," Kuwaiti Oil Minister Adel Al-Sebeih told reporters Saturday night.

"The continued decline in oil prices will have a negative impact on OPEC member states and will undoubtedly lead to action to raise prices," he said upon his return from an OPEC monitoring committee meeting in Vienna.

OPEC's price per barrel has lingered around 20 dollars for more than three weeks, below the 22-dollar floor of its target band and in theory triggering an automatic 500,000 barrels-per-day cut.

Headline engineering

Headline Engineering, one of the leaders in the UAE's construction sector, has been awarded the contract to detail, fabricate and construct the new Grand Hyatt Hotel, located adjacent to Wafi City.

The hotel is anticipated to be operational by Q1, 2002. To manage the more than 1400 tons of steel required to construct the hotel, Headline has partnered with Tekla Middle East to deploy Tekla's Xsteel solution, the industry-leading application for modelling and detailing of steel structures.

One of the most critical components of the Grand Hyatt construction is the creation of shop drawings, or the blueprints that detail the steel frame that supports the hotel building. Headline utilized Tekla Xsteel to create three-dimensional shop drawings at a rate four times faster than with traditional construction software, enabling the building fabrication to begin at an accelerated pace.

Saudi stocks

The Saudi stock market rebounded strongly to close the week Thursday up 3.9 per cent, mainly on encouraging nine-month profits for a majority of listed firms, Bakheet Financial Advisors (BFA) said.

"The Saudi stock market witnessed a positive recovery this week and compensated for part of its losses" following the September 11 terror attacks on the United States, BFA said.

The NCFEI all-shares index closed at 2,381.14 points, up from 2,292.42 points the previous week, the BFA reported. The index is now 5.4 per cent higher than at the start of the year.

Oman signs $345 mln airports deal

Oman signed a 345-million-dollar deal Wednesday with a consortium led by the British Airport Authority (BAA) to develop and manage the sultanate's two main airports, which are in the process of being privatized, the official ONA news agency reported.

The consortium, which also includes ABB Equity Ventures and the Omani Bahwan Trading Co., last month won preferred bidder status for developing and managing Seeb international airport in Muscat province and Salalah airport, some 1,000 kilometers (450 miles) south of the capital.

The agreement was signed by BAA's international director, Terry Morgan, and Oman's ministers of economy and transport, Ahmad bin Abdul Nabi Meki and Malek bin Suleiman Al-Maamari.

Double standards again

To deny the Palestinians international protection is to become an accomplice to Sharon and his army of death.