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 1. INTERNATIONAL   2. INDUSTRY
 3. FINANCE  4. POLICY
 5. TRADE  6. GULF

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GULF

April 29 - May 05, 2002

BUSH URGED TO MODERATE SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL

U.S. President George W. Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah met amid warnings from Saudi officials that Bush must moderate U.S. support for Israel or risk "grave consequences."

The two leaders held two hours of formal talks at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, as world oil prices jumped on reports later denied by the Saudis that frustration over perceived U.S. favoritism toward Israel could drive Saudi Arabia to consider supporting an Iraqi suspension of oil exports.

Bush and the Crown Prince, whose meetings ran roughly twice as long as scheduled, then broke for a tour of the ranch and a working lunch, a U.S. official said.

The U.S. side declined to immediately characterize the talks, but a Saudi foreign policy adviser told reporters during the break Prince Abdullah warned Bush U.S. relations with the Arab world would be endangered unless Washington persuaded Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to end the occupation of Palestinian areas.

"He (Prince Abdullah) doesn't mince his words, like the president...If the U.S. doesn't do more to reduce the violence, there will be grave consequences for the U.S. and its interests," adviser Adel al-Jubeir said.

Meanwhile, international donors jacked up promised 2002 aid for the Palestinians on Thursday to $1.2 billion, still far short of Palestinians' demands for cash to help overcome devastating Israeli incursions.

At a 21-nation meeting in Oslo to review world efforts to help the Palestinians, the World Bank also estimated the costs of damage caused since Israel launched an offensive on March 29 to halt suicide bombings at $300 million.

ARAB STATES POST NEARLY 4PC GROWTH

The economies of Arab states grew by nearly four per cent in real terms last year despite a sharp global slowdown after the September incidents in the U.S. and a mammoth growth over the previous year.

The Arab world's top economist, Dr. Jassim Al Manai, chairman of Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund, said growth last year varied widely in the Arab League's 21 members, with reformist Egypt and Jordan posting growth at around 6 per cent and the GCC between 2.5 and 5 per cent.

"Growth was recorded despite the untoward conditions in the global economy last year because of the September 11 events in the U.S...most world economies slowed down while some of them sharply receded as was the case in Argentina," he wrote in the quarterly bulletin of the AMF's Arab Trade Fund Programme.

Manai forecast the combined Arab economy would record real growth of around 3.6 per cent this year as oil prices and production would be below the 2001 average.

Oil prices are a major factor in the economic performance in the Arab region as more than half the League's members rely heavily on crude sales while others depend partially on inflow of aid, remittances and investment from the Arab oil producers.

The combined Arab economy leapt 12.5 per cent to $708.9 billion in 2000 when oil prices soared to nearly $27 and Arab crude production exceeded 18 million barrels per day.

According to Kuwait-based Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, the combined Arab oil revenues hit their their highest level in 19 years to reach around $180 billion in 2000. A decline in prices and output in 2001 pushed earnings to around $145 billion and they are expected to slide further this year.

The surge in oil prices in 2000 and intensified reforms in some members boosted public and private investment in the Arab world to its highest ever level of around $138.5 billion.

HOTELS WITNESS BRISK BUSINESS

Dubai's hotels and hotel apartments witnessed a 6.04 per cent growth in the number of guests in 2001 despite September 11 events, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).

The total number of hotel guests rose to 3,626,625 in 2001, compared to 3,420,209 guests in 2000.

Like the previous year, 2001 also saw Arabs make up the largest group with 1,515,665, compared to 1,423,396 in 2000, which represents a 6.48 per cent increase. This includes 301,593 UAE nationals, 845,716 GCC nationals (excluding the UAE), 368,356 nationals from other Arab countries.

Europeans make up the second largest group, according to the statistics, with 953,064 visitors. This is 2.02 per cent higher than the number of Europeans visiting the emirate in 2000 which was 934,239.

STRONG OIL PRICES TO CURB SAUDI BUDGET DEFICIT, DEBT

Saudi Arabia is expected to sharply cut its budget deficit this year and curb the swelling public debt as oil prices will likely remain above its projections and the Gulf oil giant is exercising restraint in spending, economists said.

The Gulf kingdom has assumed a price for its oil at between $17-19 and an average oil production of 7.6 million barrels per day, but prices have remained far higher and output could be hiked later this year depending on political and market conditions.

With that average production, Saudi Arabia's crude exports could total around 2.5 billion barrels during 2002 and prices of Saudi crude could remain above $20.

DUBAI TO GET METALS, COMMODITIES CENTRE

Dubai to get metals, commodities centre Dubai |By Rasha Owais | 25-04-2002

Dubai is establishing three gold refineries and a metals and commodities centre that will provide a full range of facilities for trading in gold, diamonds and key commodities like tea and sugar. The announcement was made by General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and UAE Defence Minister.

Through the establishment of Dubai Metals and Commodities Centre (DMCC), the emirate aims at acquiring 50 per cent of the annual 2,300-2400 tonnes global gold production, during the coming few years, said Sheikh Mohammed.

VIOLENCE ERUPTS IN HEBRON AND GAZA

Israeli tanks and troops have entered the West Bank city of Hebron as efforts continue further north in Bethlehem to end the three-week siege at the Church of the Nativity.

Palestinian eyewitnesses said 10 tanks and 10 armoured personnel carriers went about one kilometre (half a mile) into the city overnight and exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen, before leaving several hours later.

Hebron is the only major West Bank city not to have been reoccupied in Israel's military offensive.

ADSB IN TALKS TO WIN KUWAIT DEAL

Kuwait's Navy is in talks with Abu Dhabi Ship Building Co (ADSB) for upgrading its vessels and construction of sophisticated new warships, official sources confirmed.

THREE HOTEL PROPERTIES

Three hotel properties totally worth around Dh400 million are in various stages of planning or implementation in Fujairah, as part of the emirate's ongoing drive into tourism, one of the government's stated thrust areas.

DUBAI INVESTORS RUSH TO BUY UK PROPERTY

The sale of more than Dh40 million worth of UK property in just a few days goes to show that the UAE's property investment market has regained confidence, said an industry expert.

Before the Tally Ho Property Show opened at the Dubai Creek Yacht and Golf Club, about 35 of 40 released apartments were sold.

The apartments at the Tally Ho development, in London's north, sold so quickly that the developers, Wilson Connolly, were forced to release more.

UN SAYS JENIN MISSION TO PROCEED

UN officials say a fact-finding mission to examine the Israeli army's incursion into the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank will go ahead by the weekend.

In renewed military activity in the West Bank, about 15 Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers went into the town of Qalqilya early Friday, according to witnesses.

The army said troops detained at least 13 Palestinians in the raid the second since Israeli forces pulling out of the city on 9 April.

The Israelis say their incursion in Jenin earlier this month was part of the military operation to destroy "terrorist cells".

HAMDAN APPROVES DH151M FOR PROJECTS

Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, UAE Minister of Finance and Industry and Chairman of Dubai Municipality, has approved two drainage projects worth Dh151 million.

This was announced by Qassim Sultan, Director General of Dubai Municipality, who said that the projects include the construction and maintenance of main pumping station 'K' in Rashidiya at a cost of Dh81 million.

USED CAR MARKET STAGES A COMEBACK

Sharjah has once again become a favourite place for people who want to buy used cars, with the number of used car showrooms increasing multi-fold over the last year.

Despite mushrooming showrooms, the car dealers have reported brisk business, especially for used cars imported from Japan.

Once the region's largest market for used right hand drive cars, the emirate has now become one of the biggest places for business in used left hand drive cars a change that has come about during the last couple of years.

ZAYED CELEBRATES SON'S WEDDING

President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan held here at the Armed Forces Officers' Club a luncheon to celebrate the wedding of his son, Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of the Economic Department, to the daughter of Hamad Suhail Al Khaili.

AUTOMOTIVE BODY TO FIGHT FAKE SALES

An estimated 30 per cent of automobile spare parts outlets in the UAE may be selling fakes, according to a private survey conducted in the local market. The survey was conducted within the last few months across key trading areas in the country.

DIAMOND IMPORTS DOUBLE

The number of polished diamonds imported into Dubai from Antwerp doubled last year in comparison to 2000 despite a worldwide slowdown in precious gems trade.

Antwerp's diamond sector turned over $23 billion last year, a 12 per cent decrease on the "very successful" 2000, said Filip Van Laere, director of public relations, Antwerp World Diamond Centre, HRD, Belgium.

Despite the drop, the number of gems flowing into Dubai from the diamond capital of the world continued to grow sharply.

CENTRAL BANK 'MUST UPDATE RULES'

The UAE Central Bank's regulations will have to be updated in a manner that will help the Dubai Metals and Commodities Centre (DMCC) to grow, like how the Bank of England helps the London Bullion market, according to an expert.

"The DMCC team has been in touch with the UAE Central Bank from the initial stage," said Terry Smeeton, a member of the DMCC Advisory Board. He said Dubai refineries have a scope for development, particularly in the field of scrap gold.

DMCC TO AID DUBAI GAIN LOST GROUND

The Dubai Metal and Commodity Centre (DMCC) will help Dubai gain lost ground in the bulk consumption of gold, officials said.

Dubai's gold consumption rose to 660 tonnes in 1998, the highest point to date. It later went down to less than 300 tonnes a year due to liberalised bullion policy in India and Pakistan.

Current world gold consumption is around 2,300 tonnes. Dubai accounts for about 10 per cent of the global market.

DUBAI FIRM WINS DH20M CONTRACT

Amusement Whitewater, a Dubai-based group specialising in themed construction and the design and building of amusement water parks, has been awarded a Dh20 million contract to build an "African village" of up to 30 chalets for a UAE hotel.

The group, which has an annual turnover exceeding Dh40 million, is also constructing an African village resort on a private island off the UAE coast.

PALESTINIANS SEEK LARGE AID PACKAGE

The Palestinians are seeking more than $1bn in emergency and other aid at a meeting of international donors in Norway on Thursday.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen said experts would map out emergency needs for the Palestinians in the wake of the onslaught by the Israeli army.

TURKEY AND GREECE IN MID-EAST EFFORT

The foreign ministers of old enemies Greece and Turkey are hoping to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Thursday.

The visit is a gesture intended to demonstrate that even bitter rivals can cooperate in the search for peace.

It is unlikely to change anything on the ground in the Middle East but is, nonetheless, loaded with symbolic significance.

BUSINESS AS USUAL IN IRAQ

Despite the growing US calls for a regime change in Iraq and a military strike possibly looming on the horizon, life in Iraq seems to be continuing as usual.

No-one is stocking up on food and there is no visible out-of-the-ordinary military activity. For the past 12 years, Iraqis have learned to live with the threat of a major US strike.