Nov 19 - 25, 2001
Oil prices sink below 18 dollars
The price of oil sank below $18 a barrel on Thursday for the
first time in over two years after Opec energy ministers squared up for a
possible price war with non-Opec producers.
Brent North Sea crude for December delivery fell as low as
$17.30, dow $1.45 from Wednesday evening. The last time prices were so low was
in July 1999.
In New York, December-dated light sweet crude futures tumbled
$1.74 to $18 a barrel.
Prices dropped after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Countries (Opec) agreed on Wednesday to slash output by 1.5 million barrels a
day — more than six per cent — from January 1, 2002, but only if rival
producers followed with a cut of their own.
The Opec basket price dropped to $18.09 on Wednesday from
$19.23 on Tuesday, the Opecna agency reported from Vienna, far below the group's
target range of $22-28.
Traders said comments from Kuwaiti Oil Minister Adel al-Sebeih
that he would not be surprised if the oil price fell as low as $10 a barrel was
also eroding confidence.
Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi Al-Nuaimi appealed
to non-Opec major producing countries to help resolve an energy market
"crisis" sparked by the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"It is really an appeal to all major producers to work
together at this time of crisis so that we can manage the market at reasonable
price," al-Nuaimi told journalists.
"Absolutely not .. until everyone cooperates" he
said when asked if Opec will cut its output in line with a conditional accord
reached by the 11-member cartel.
But Russia has so far offered only a symbolic cut of 30,000
barrels a day, infuriating Opec energy ministers.
Jordan unveils new economic reforms programme
Jordan's Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb submitted a
comprehensive programme of social and economic reforms to King Abdullah II
Thursday, detailing multi-million-dollar projects to improve life in the
Abu Ragheb's deputy in charge of economic affairs, Mohamed
Halayka, estimated the cost of the projects at 300 million dinars (422 million
dollars) and said they would focus on revamping health and education services as
well as investment-tracking schemes.
Jordan hopes to raise the funds by 2002, outside the budget,
from the alleviation of its seven-billion-dollar foreign debt, foreign aid and
privatisation, officials said.
On October 25 Abdullah gave Abu Ragheb a three-week deadline
to chart out a programme of reforms, insisting that the overall task should be
aimed at reducing unemployment and poverty in Jordan.
He also called for the scrapping of the information and youth
ministries as part of a government reshuffle carried out two days later by Abu
Ragheb aimed at improving the cabinet's performance and cutting costs.
The king has argued that slow economic growth and high debt
were plaguing Jordan and maintaining its five million people in a state of
rampant poverty and unemployment.
Unemployment in Jordan stands at 12 to 13 per cent, according
to official estimates, and as high as 25 per cent according to unofficial
One in three Jordanians is said to live under the poverty
Abdullah listed his country's achievements since ascending
the throne in February 1999 following the death of his father, the late King
Hussein, including legislative reform to attract foreign capital.
Over the past year, he said, the economy grew by four per
cent and Jordan expected to see more brisk business following the signing late
September of a Free Trade Agreement with the United States, the first by an Arab
Opec set to slash output
Opec oil cartel agreed on Wednesday to slash output by at
least one million barrels per day (bpd) to boost sagging crude prices, despite
failing to win immediate support from key rival Russia.
Amid an apparent attempt at 11th-hour brinkmanship with
Moscow, the cartel's ministers agreed the reduction but said they still hoped
key non-Opec countries would yet offer more help to bolster crude prices.
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec)
President Chakib Khelil said there was "consensus on at least one
million" barrels per day (bpd) to be cut from the 11-member cartel's total
"There will be a cut," Iranian Oil Minister Bijan
Namdar Zangeneh said after an informal meeting. The Iranian minister had
previously urged no cut if non-Opec states failed to take action.
Opec, which produces 40 per cent of the world's crude, has
been widely expected to cut its output by at least one million bpd, its fourth
reduction this year.
20 years of Fahd: Saudi awaits reform
Despite political turmoil and two Gulf wars, Saudi Arabia has
grown into a regional economic power in the two decades of King Fahd's rule, but
the oil-rich kingdom is still awaiting genuine democratic reforms.
Celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the monarch's
accession to the throne have been overshadowed by the so called anti-terror
campaign in Afghanistan and strains in relations with the United States, the
kingdom's main ally.
Since suffering a stroke in 1995, King Fahd has delegated
much of his powers to his crown prince and half-brother, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz,
who has been running the day-to-day affairs of this vast kingdom.
But during the reign of King Fahd, Saudi Arabia has developed
into an important economic power, backed by its position as home to the world's
largest proven oil reserves and an OPEC kingpin.
Oil revenues grew from just 1.2 billion dollars in 1970 to
104 billion in 1980, but dropped again to about 50 billion dollars this year.
Yet Gross National Product has grown from just six billion dollars in 1970 to
163 billion in 2000.
Peres backs Palestinian state
It is unclear what the boundaries of such a state would be
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has told the United Nations that there is
broad agreement on the creation of a Palestinian state.
In a speech to the General Assembly in New York, Mr Peres
said that, while its creation was not yet the formal policy of Israel, he
acknowledged it was gaining support among other nations.
Mr Peres has endorsed an independent Palestinian state in the
past, but this is the first time he has done so at the UN.
US President George W Bush told the UN on Saturday that
Washington was working towards a day when two states, Israel and Palestine,
would live peacefully together.
Iran wants foreign investment in natural gas
Iran Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh called on Saturday
for foreign investment in the country's natural gas sector.
"Iran welcomes all direct foreign investment, notably in
the field of production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and is ready to protect
foreign capital," Zangeneh said at a conference on gas and its resources in
the Middle East." He said Iranian gas exports to Turkey should begin soon.
Iran and Turkey signed in August 1996 a 20-billion dollar
contract to deliver 192 billion cubic metres (6.7 trillion cubic feet) of
Iranian gas to Turkey over 22 years.
Last year, they extended the contract to 25 years and the
volume of exports to 228 billion cubic metres (7.9 trillion cubic feet).
But the flow of gas, which was set to start in 1999, has not
yet begun, for reasons never explained.
Saudi-US relations strained over Afghanistan
The crisis over Afghanistan and the continuing violence in
the Middle East have caused serious strains in the relationship between the
United States and Saudi Arabia.
The two countries have had a close strategic partnership
since the Second World War.
But for several months the relationship has been marked by
mistrust and misunderstanding.
Look at the Saudi and American press and you would scarcely
believe the two countries are close allies.
Libya condemns Afghan opposition's actions
The Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has accused the Afghan
anti-Taleban fighters of behaving as ruthlessly as their hard-line enemies since
In a letter to the Northern Alliance leader, Burhanuddin
Rabbani, Colonel Gaddafi said the world's media had shown scenes of anti-Taleban
fighters executing prisoners, shooting dead surrendering soldiers and
humiliating elderly people — all of which are opposed to Islamic principles.
Israeli army 'kills one' in Gaza
Palestinian medical sources said on Thursday that one
Palestinian was killed and at least 20 were injured after an Israeli raid on the
Khan Youris refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army did not immediately make any comment,
although it did say that mortar fire had been directed at the Jewish settlement
of Gush Katif, and the Erez border crossing.
Some Palestinian families in Khan Younis described Israeli
shelling as "indiscriminate".
The area is one of the frontlines in the constant battles
between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants, who are protesting against
what they see as the presence of Jewish settlers on occupied land.
Amnesty calls for Mid-East observers
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International has
called for the urgent deployment of an international observer force to end what
it says is an intolerable situation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Iran to open telecoms market
Demand for mobile communications is soaring Iran is planning
to open its telecommunications sector to foreign operators in order to meet
soaring public demand for telephone lines and internet access.
The government is preparing legal changes to pave the way for
foreign firms to enter the market, telecommunications minister Ahmad Motamedi
told the Reuters news agency.
"We are now taking our first steps towards privatisation
and establishing regulatory policy which would allow the entry of the private
sector," he said.
Foreign operators will be invited to provide mobile and
fixed-line communications as well as internet access to Iran's 62 million
consumers, he added.
Iraq must develop oilfields
Iraq needs to develop hundreds of oilfields a year to become
the world's top oil reservoir, Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Mohammad Rashid said
"Iraq needs to develop hundreds of oilfields a year to
turn its potential reserves into proven reserves and become the world's top
reservoir," he said, quoted by the official INA news agency.
"To that end, Iraq will resort to foreign firms in the
short term, while favoring domestic and Arab firms in oil prospecting," he
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.
Rashid said in August that Iraq aims to increase its oil
reserves to 270 billion barrels by transforming potential reserves into proven
Yemen gets $50 mln loan for power plant
The Saudi Development Fund on Sunday granted Yemen a
50-million-dollar loan to finance the construction of a gas-fired power plant in
Maareb, SPA news agency reported.
Saudi Finance and National Economy Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf,
who heads the Fund, and Yemeni Minister of Planning and Development Ahmad Sufan
signed the loan agreement in Riyadh.
Assaf said the project aims at providing a strategic source
of electricity in Yemen to meet soaring demand by the population and industry.
He said more than 30 per cent of loans provided by the Fund to Yemen were
allocated to the power sector.
Islamic banks 'above suspicion'
Bahrain's crown prince Saturday defended Islamic banks, some
of which have been accused by Washington of funding terrorism, declaring that
they were "above suspicion." "We remain committed to Islamic
banks and financial institutions, and this commitment will become even stronger
now because we want to show the real face of Islam, which has nothing to do with
the terrorism practiced by a small group," Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa
told reporters during a conference of Islamic banks here.
Located some 20 kilometers (12 miles) off Iran's southern
coast, Kish island is the nation's leading "free-trade zone" and a
sunny haven for both businessmen and tourists.
Kish, which literally means oval, from the island's shape, is
very different from the Islamic republic's mainland, looking rather to Dubai 200
kilometers (120 miles) away, as a "bigger sister".
Visitors from all over the world, including the United
States, can travel to Kish without a visa, the only exception being Israelis,
arch-foes of the Iranian people and government.