Feb-25 - Mar- 10, 2002
US sends official to Riyadh on peace plan
Official reaction to the Saudi peace plan has been
circumspect, but the Bush administration on Thursday despatched a senior State
Department official to Saudi Arabia to discuss the plan with its author, Crown
The administration's move was welcomed by Palestinian
President Yasser Arafat, who told The New York Times in an interview that the
plan needed a "very strong and very quick push from outside."
The Saudi proposals, which envisage Arab normalization of
relations with Israel once it pulls back to the 1967 border, have been welcomed
by the European Union and Russia, but the United States has so far described
them as "interesting" and worth following up. Secretary of State Colin
Powell has said the Bush administration was prepared to aggressively pursue
several peace openings in the Middle East, but insisted that the onus for
curtailing violence and moving forward remained on Mr Arafat.
Mr Powell suggested in an interview with the Times that the
plan needed to be fleshed out more before "we declare we have a solution.
It isn't a solution in and of itself. It just adds something to the
equation." He noted that a formulation such as a withdrawal to the pre-1967
borders was "easily said, but a very difficult concept to get total
agreement on." Administration officials had previously described it as
being more of a vision at this stage than a concrete plan.
Observers say sending Assistant Secretary of State for Near
Eastern Affairs William Burns, a frequent negotiator with both Israel and the
Palestinians, to Saudi Arabia was an indication that the administration did not
want to give the appearance that it was not seriously pursuing the Abdullah
initiative. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is due to visit Washington this
weekend, and the issue would no doubt be gone over with him.
Fresh violence claims 12 Palestinian lives
Violence exploded in the Middle East on Thursday, with 12
Palestinians and an Israeli killed, overshadowing a new round of joint security
talks and dashing hopes raised by a Saudi peace initiative.
As the Palestinian intifada entered its 18th month, six
Palestinian police officers and a 64-year-old civilian were killed in gunbattles
during an Israeli incursion into the Jenin refugee camp, in the northern West
Bank, Palestinian security sources said.
An Israeli soldier and four Palestinians were also killed in
fighting in the Balata camp near Nablus, which also left 135 Palestinians
injured, Israeli military and Palestinian hospital sources said. Security
sources on both sides said the army had full control over the camp without
occupying it completely.
Abu Dhabi oil output touches 2m bpd
Abu Dhabi's oil production has peaked at nearly 2 million
barrels per day as it pushes ahead with multi-billion dollar plans to expand
The output of nearly 1.99 million bpd in 2000 was higher by
16 per cent over 1990's 1.7 million bpd, according to the Abu Dhabi Planning
Department's annual report.
The bulk of the increase was at onshore fields, where
production surged to 1.015 million bpd from 774,000 bpd in the same period.
Offshore production rose to 975,000 bpd from 942,000 bpd.
Abu Dhabi Co for Onshore Operations (Adco) remained the top
producer in the emirate, with output of around one million bpd, nearly half of
the total production.
Abu Dhabi Marine Oil Co (Adma) produced 440,000 bpd,
overtaken by Zakum Development Co (Zadco), which boosted its production capacity
from around 340,000 to 460,000 bpd. The remaining came from Adoc, Albunduq and
Said an Abu Dhabi based oil executive, "Capacity is set
to rise further as more investments are planned to maintain existing capacity
and expand other fields." By end-2000, Abu Dhabi had 2,816 drilled wells,
of which 1,200 are producing, the report showed.
It put the emirate's recoverable crude reserves at 92.2
billion barrels, unchanged from 1990 reserves despite the increase in
production. Cumulative production over the past 11 years totalled around eight
billion barrels and a similar quantity was produced in the previous 15 years.
Experts said reserves are not affected because of the
introduction of advanced technology, which helped increase extraction rates.
They cited horizontal drilling which yields as much as three times the vertical
Experts estimate Abu Dhabi's total oil output capacity at
around 2.2 million bpd and expected it to exceed 2.5 million bpd in the coming
10 years. The UAE as a whole has a sustainable capacity of around 2.5 million
GCC, EU inch closer to deal (2nd Box)
The EU and Gulf states inched closer to a free trade pact.
Ministers talked about locking up a trade agreement before the end of the year,
although European officials saw some stumbling blocks such as the EU's six per
cent duty on imports of aluminum and the freedom of EU-based companies to hire
service sector employees in GCC countries.
"At the same time we are negotiating with the GCC, we
are negotiating with Chile, with (the South American trading bloc) Mercosur and
others. If it is humanly possible we will end the negotiations in a good
time," European External Affairs Comissioner Chris Patten said.
The next free-trade meeting with the GCC will take place on
March 20 and 21 in Brussels.
Travel and tourism sector almost ready
The travel and tourism sector is in the final phase of
preparation to host the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF).
The festival attracted 2.5 million shoppers last year, and
the number is expected to surpass that figure this year.
The tourism industry attributes this growth to the range of
events lined up for the festival.
"Since the inception of the DSF in 1996, the travel and
tourism sector has reaped tremendous benefits," said Samir Androwas,
general manager of Airlink.
"Tourists from all over the world come to Dubai to enjoy
the events and in the process witness the extensive development that Dubai has
achieved in communications, finance and business.
"This year, Emirates has reported a significant increase
in the number of tourists coming to Dubai. There are 59 airlines coming to the
emirate and all of these are reporting 100 per cent reservations.
"Most airlines offer 10-20 per cent discount during the
DSF. Europeans and other GCC residents form the major portion of travellers."
"Each and every trade establishment in Dubai reaps the
benefits of Dubai's international reputation created by the Dubai Shopping
Festival. Airlines and hotels also play a critical role in promoting
Dubai," said Monzir Hilal, general manager of Al Nabooda Travels.
"This year, visitors from the GCC and Europe constitute
the highest percentage of tourists to Dubai. Most hotels are booked fully till
March 15, and we are confident that all will have 100 per cent reservations for
the whole of March."
Mohammed Radi, sales director of Gulf Air, said, "For
the last six years, we have recorded a steep growth in the number of visitors
coming to Dubai, a result of constant innovation in the activities in Dubai. The
DSF is also a very good example of the successful co-operation between the
private and government sectors.
Scratch and win with Al-Futtaim
The Al-Futtaim Group, one of the key sponsors of the Dubai
Shopping Festival 2002, will have a shop-and-win promotion for their customers
The group will offer discounts on products at their retail
outlets. On purchases of Dh200, the customer will receive a scratch card that
could win a discount on the next transaction.
The group has under its umbrella the likes of Marks &
Spencer, Toys R Us, Ikea, Ace Hardware, Al-Futtaim Watches & Jewellery, Oman
National Electronics, Al-Futtaim Electronics Sanyo, Al-Futtaim Elec-tronics
Toshiba, Alcatel, Aftron, Afcomp, Plug-ins and Hertz Rent-a-car.
Chirac backs Saudi peace plan
Welcoming Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to the Elysee
Palace for a series of talks over settlement of the Middle East conflict,
President Jacques Chirac let it be known that he backed the peace plan proposed
last week by Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
"His proposals are strong and courageous," said Mr
Chirac, who also revealed that he had telephoned Prince Abdullah over the
weekend to personally inform him of France's decision to support his peace plan.
Karzai seeks close relations with Iran
Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai, on the second day of his
first official visit to Iran, on Monday called for Tehran and Kabul to work
together to create peace and stability in their troubled region. "Today we
come to our brother's home," Karzai said in an address to Iran's parliament
where he was greeted with warm applause.
"We and you are in need of peace and stability in the
region. At the start of this new century we can silence the guns to create a
focus of beauty, friendship and cooperation."
Emirates orders GP7000 engines
Emirates selected the GP7000 engine from General Electric and
Pratt and Whitney (GE P&W) to power its Airbus A380s, expected to be in the
skies in 2006.
EU supports UAE stand on islands issue
The European Union supports the UAE's stand calling for a
peaceful solution to Iran-occupied islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu
Moussa either through direct negotiations or referring the issue to the
International Court of Justice (ICJ), said a senior official.
In remarks at the end of a meeting of Gulf Cooperation
Council and EU foreign ministers in the Spanish city of Granada, Ambassador
Abdullah Rashid Al Nuaimi, Assistant Undersecretary for Political Affairs and
head of the UAE delegation to the meeting, said the EU welcomed Saudi Crown
Prince Abdulla bin Abdulaziz's Middle East peace initiative.
New use for lake salt found
An enterprising businessman has successfully created a niche
market for common salt found in the lake on the Ras Al Khaimah-Umm Al Quwain
Ibrahim Hassan Bulbaid, who bought the rights to produce salt
from the lake from the Umm Al Quwain Municipality, found himself in a quandary
when laboratory tests showed that the salt was unfit for consumption.
Instead of being disheartened, he found a market for nearly
all of his production by supplying salt to builders of traditional ovens which
have to withstand high temperatures.
Bahrain bodies deplore bid to provoke crisis
Political associations in Bahrain warned of "suspicious
attempts to provoke political crisis and inflame the security situation" in
the island, reaffirming in the meantime their objections to "the mechanism
by which the constitution was amended" recently by a governmental
"There are elements in Bahrain who are trying very hard
to reverse the positive changes and the reforms introduced (in the island by the
His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa)," said a joint statement by
the main five political associations of Bahrain.
Arbift posts Dh40.2m profit
The Arab Bank for Investment and Foreign Trade (Arbift) has
reported a net profit of Dh40.2 million for 2001 compared to the previous year's
Israel plotting to secularise Islamic world
Israel's agenda is to secularise the Islamic world, said
Dubai's Police Chief, and he urged Arabs to unite in the face of adversity.
Addressing intellectuals and foreign dignitaries at a press
conference held at the Juma Al Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage on Tuesday,
Maj Gen Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai Police Chief, delivered a lecture entitled
The Israeli Strategy.
In a move to back the peace proposal recently issued by Saudi
Crown Prince Abdulla bin AbdulAziz, Maj Gen Dhahi reiterated that any future
visits conducted by Arab leaders to the occupied territories should be made upon
a Palestinian invitation rather than an Israeli one.
Dh750m road projects completed
Dubai Municipality's Roads Department completed road projects
worth nearly Dh750 million last year.
Nasser Ahmed Saeed, the director of the department, listed
some of the most important and the most expensive of them.
These included the Dh68.6 million Ring Road third phase; the
new Dh47.4 million vegetable and fruit market roads at Al Aweer; the Dh40.1
million interchange at Al Mamzar; the Dh25.5. million Port Saeed road network;
the Dh24 million renovation at Al Mamzar Corniche; the Dh23.2 million road
network at Za'abeel; and the road work at Al Khawaneej that cost Dh21.2 million.
Muscat civic body gets new members
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos has appointed new members to the
Muscat's Municipal Council, representing various ministries and public
authorities, in recognition of the council's key role in developing the
Sultanate's fast-growing capital, known for its impeccable cleanliness.
According to a Royal Decree the new members comprise
representatives of various government authorities such as the ministries of
Health, Commerce and Industry, Agriculture and Fisheries, Transport and
Telecommunications, Housing, Electricity and Water, Regional Municipalities,
Environment and Water Resources, Manpower, Muscat Governorate and the Royal Oman
New cargo village being established
A new cargo handling facility adjacent to Abu Dhabi
International Airport is being developed to meet growing air cargo volumes.
Phase one of the Abu Dhabi Airport Cargo Village will be ready by August this
year, senior officials confirmed.
Stage set for mega event
Final preparations for the Emirates International Forum (EIF)
which opens on Saturday in Dubai, have been completed. Nearly 500 delegates from
the Gulf have confirmed their participation at the two-day event.
In its ninth year, the event will have the New Economy's
future and the challenges as its primary theme.
Some of the main speakers, including Robert Lees, secretary
general of the Pacific Basin Economic Council, has already arrived in Dubai.
Others are expected to do so within the coming 24 hours.
Arbift hopeful of asset defreeze
The Arab Bank for Investment and Foreign Trade's (Arbift)
assets frozen in the U.S. and U.S. banks abroad according to current valuation
are Dh443 million. Arbift is hopeful the embargo will be lifted soon.
The bank's vice-chairman, Khalid Ali Al Bustani confirmed:
"Despite the bank being subjected to U.S. sanctions, Arbift overcame many
odds to achieve a sustained growth through prudent policies and strategies and
the support of investors.
Since 1992, the bank has been subject to an embargo imposed
by the U.S. Treasury Department which resulted in freezing some of the bank's
assets and tracking of its dollar operations.
Lebanon's VAT to hit IT sector hard
Lebanon's recent move to bring in a 10 per cent value-added
tax (VAT) will impact significantly on the IT sector in the key regional market,
according to a senior source.
The decision took effect early this month. Lebanon's move on
VAT effectively neutralises the country's decision in the last quarter of 2001
to have zero per cent on IT products.
Mideast IT mart set for consolidation
Consolidation is imminent in the Middle East's
highly-fragmented IT retail sector, much along the lines of what happened in
Europe, according to a senior industry source.
"A situation has been reached where the main IT vendors
would like to reduce the number of channel partners they deal with. Their
preference is increasingly for partners who can provide more services to
customers than just move boxes," said Vimal Kochar, general manager for
finance and administration at A'ayan Magirus, the regional operations of the
German IT distributor.
"In Europe the process has already started, and it is
coming to the Middle East."
Woman bomber attacks Israelis
A Palestinian woman has blown herself up at an Israeli
checkpoint in the West Bank, wounding two Palestinians accompanying her and at
least three Israeli policemen.
The attack occurred late on Wednesday on a road between
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, near the Jewish settlement of Maccabim, Israeli security
sources and medical officials said.
One of the Israeli officers was seriously hurt, the sources
said. Two Palestinians with the woman were said to be seriously injured. One
report said they had died.
Poll says Muslims angry at US
Most Muslims do not believe that Arabs carried out the 11
September attacks on the United States, according to a poll of nearly 10,000
Muslim residents from nine countries.
The Gallup poll also found widespread dislike of the United
States and President George W Bush, and most of those asked disagreed with the
campaign in Afghanistan.
Among the countries included in the survey, Lebanon had the
most favourable opinion of the US with Pakistan at the other extreme.
The poll is believed to be the most comprehensive survey of
public opinion in the Muslim world following the attacks on New York and
Algeria sets poll date
The Algerian Government has announced that parliamentary
elections are to be held on 30 May.
In a cabinet statement President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said
consultations would begin with political parties and other groups to ensure the
poll proceeds without any irregularities.
He expressed his determination to respect the sincerity of
the vote and guarantee a free choice for Algerians; the last elections were
marred by widespread opposition.
The current Algerian National Assembly was elected in 1997
and includes representatives from secular and moderate Islamic parties.
Algerian forces have been engaged in a 10-year civil war with
Islamic militants which began after an Islamic party was prevented from taking
power following parliamentary elections.
It's estimated that more than 100,000 people have been killed
in the past 10 years of violence.
Turkey to clear mines on Syria border
The Turkish army is to start mine clearance along the
country's border with Syria. Once mine clearance is completed, cotton will be
planted on the land.
The two countries are also close to signing an agreement on
military cooperation. Turkey's south-eastern border with Syria is its longest,
running for more than 870 kilometres (545 miles). It is not public knowledge how
many mines were laid by Turkey on the border. But the loss of good farm land is
Iraq aid programme in 'deep trouble'
The United Nations' humanitarian programme aimed at easing
the effects of sanctions on Iraq is in "deep trouble" financially, a
senior UN official has warned.
Benon Sevan, the UN undersecretary-general in charge of the Iraqi
oil-for-food programme, said political deadlock between UN Security Council
powers over the sanctions regime threatened to bring the initiative to a