GULF

 

Aug 12 - 18, 2002

 

1.INTERNATIONAL

2. INDUSTRY

3. FINANCE

4. POLICY

5. TRADE

6. GULF

 

EUROPEANS WIN LIBYAN OIL DEAL

A consortium of European companies has won a $155m contract to develop a further Libyan oil field, in a signal of Tripoli's growing international trade aspirations.
A cartel led by Spain's Repsol has won approval from the National Oil Company of Libya to explore for oil in a Murzuk basin field which it is estimated will produce 40,000 barrels per day of crude from early 2004.

The news comes as the country's leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi prepares to welcome UK Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien for a meeting seen as a sign of Libya's wish for acceptance as a trade partner.

Libya is trying to attract $10bn in foreign investment in oil sector by 2010, and has offered more than 130 exploration blocks since the United Nations imposed sanctions in 1999.

But the Repsol deal is only the sixth, all struck with European companies.

US oil firms are barred by a 1986 US presidential order from dealing with Libya.

The contract with the Repsol consortium which includes France's TotalFinaElf, Austria's OMV and Norway's Saga Petroleum Mabruk does not mark the entry of any new European companies into the Libyan market.

About 40,000 barrels per day are expected to be produced from 2004.

Libya has reserves of 29.5 billion barrels, which are just a fraction of those held by Opec cartel giant Saudi Arabia.

Some analysts think Tripoli may have been hoping to fend off European investors in the hope of luring US cash when Washington lifts its embargo.

OPEC QUOTA BUSTING HITS NEW PEAKS

Oil cartel Opec's stranglehold on world energy looks set to weaken, according to figures which show members ignoring their quotas to take advantage of high prices.

A survey by consultancy Petrologistics, which counts tankers leaving Opec ports, shows that compliance with quotas has dropped to 63% compared with more than 70% early in the year.

Among the biggest culprits are Nigeria and Algeria, Petrologistics said.

But Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest crude oil exporter by far, is also pumping well above its allowance amid internal political pressures and money trouble.

The risk of a US-led assault on Iraq is also increasing demand, as countries stock up in case oil prices spike.

Opec the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries has a declared policy of cutting or boosting production so as to keep the price of oil at around $25 a barrel.

Monday's closing price for Opec crude was $24.77 and, apart from the slump in prices to below $20 following the 11 September attacks, has remained close to that level for months.

Oil experts say the main reason for the widespread quota-busting is that, with prices stubbornly high, producers want to take advantage of the market.

"The price is right where Opec wants it," Clay Smith, oil analyst at Commerzbank in London, told BBC News Online.

"[Opec members] don't see a risk to the price in doing what they're doing at the moment."

A Reuters survey showed that the 10 Opec members which were meant to be restricting output pumped 23.56 million barrels of crude in June, 9% more than they were meant to.

US DERIDES SADDAM'S 'BLUSTER'

The United States has dismissed a speech by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in which he said that any attack on his country would be doomed to failure.

In his first public remarks since US President George W Bush vowed last month to see him replaced, Saddam Hussein said that "evil people" who threatened Arab and Muslim countries would be left "in the dustbin of history".

The televised address came amid growing speculation that the US is planning to attack Iraq over its failure to readmit United Nations weapons monitors, who have been barred from the country since 1998.

US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the speech was "bluster from an internationally isolated dictator, demonstrative yet again that his regime shows no intention to live up to its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions".

CAUTIOUS START TO US-PALESTINIAN TALKS

A senior Palestinian delegation has held talks in Washington with Secretary of State Colin Powell the first high-level meeting between US and Palestinian officials for months.

Afterwards, Mr Powell announced moves to alleviate the humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza, and hinted at new moves to get an agreement on security co-operation.

The talks came as a tentative agreement over a phased Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas appeared to have collapsed.

Shortly after discussions between the two sides ended, Israeli troops swept into Gaza and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he had no intention of holding peace negotiations with the current Palestinian leadership.

SAUDIS LASH US 'CHRISTIAN EXTREMISTS'

The Saudi press has launched a vitriolic attack on what it describes as Christian fundamentalism in the United States.

One newspaper, al-Watan, said Christian fundamentalism was no less dangerous to international peace and security than other forms of religious extremism.

The newspapers were responding to reports of a Pentagon briefing during which Saudi Arabia was described as the kernel of evil in the Middle East.

Despite the official statements from Washington and Riyadh that relations between the two countries are as good as ever, the anger in the Saudi press reflects a growing unease in Saudi Arabia about the way the kingdom has been portrayed in the United States since the attacks in September last year.

The prime suspect, Osama Bin Laden, is a Saudi dissident, and so were most of the hijackers.

IRAQ ISSUES 10,000 DINAR BANKNOTE

Iraq's central bank plans to issue a 10,000 dinar banknote for commercial transactions.

"This note will be used in relatively large commercial deals, notably for real estate and costly machinery," Iraqi Central Bank (ICB) governor Isam Rashid Huwaysh was quoted as saying by local newspapers.

One US dollar buys about 1,900 dinars, but the highest denomination currently used is the 250 dinar.

Bills in shops, restaurants and hotels can reach hundreds of thousands of dinars and many are equipped with cash-counting machines.

But Dr Huwaysh said the new banknote will not be used for everyday transactions.

Credit cards and cheques are no longer accepted in Iraq.

DUBAI SEES DH5.5B LAND DEALS IN SIX MONTHS

Dubai's real-estate sector has recorded a phenomenal rise during the first half of this year with deals valued at Dh5.5 billion, a 46 per cent increase in the value of land sold during the same period last year, according to a report from the Lands Department.

Land at Mirdif remained the most popular, followed by Barsha 2, said Mohammed bin Touq, chairman of Regulations and Studies Section.

Barsha 1 ranked third because authorities opened the door for more investment there by allowing the construction of six-storey buildings, said Bin Touq.

ATTACK ON IRAN 'HIGHLY PROBABLE' NEXT YEAR

A U.S. attack on Iran is "highly probable" in 2003, Mohsen Rezaie, spokesman of Iran's Expediency Council, said.

Speaking to Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), Rezaie warned the U.S. saying that "Iran's role in the region cannot be ignored."

Rezaie urged the Iranian government to adopt two major strategies simultaneously for facing any U.S. attack against Iran. "High-ranking officials including parliamentarians, judiciary system, and government officials should pool in all their efforts towards the requests of the people," said Rezaie.

RAKBANK PROFIT INCREASES 13PC

Even as most of the public joint stock company (PJSC) banks do not bother to bring out audited semi-annual financial statements, RakBank has once again published its audited first-half results with a 13 per cent jump in net profit to Dh34.9 million.

40PC GROWTH IN DUTY-FREE SHOPS

Duty free outlets in Dubai's three ports Jebel Ali, Rashid and Dubai Creek have witnessed a 40 per cent growth this year over its operations in 2001, said a top duty free official.

Duty Free Dubai Ports FZE, which runs duty free shops in seven locations including three permanent, two temporary and two mobile units in Jebel Ali Free Zone, Port Rashid and Dubai Creek's Dhow Wharfage, is currently planning to set up another duty free shop in Hamriya Port next year.

ADGAS REPLACING LNG LOADING ARMS AT JETTY

Abu Dhabi Gas Liquefaction Co. (Adgas) is replacing its four 16-inch LNG loading arms on the jetty with new ones.

The increased rate of major maintenance for the existing arms and the need to mobilise expensive marine barges for lifting the loading arms from the jetty for workshop refurbishment, have prompted the decision to replace the existing 25-year old loading arms.

GULF AIR RESTRUCTURING

Back in the 1980's Gulf Air held some of the most enviable routes in the GCC and was the airline with a monopoly on some choice routes.

Almost 20 years later the airline has not only lost the position it once enjoyed, but with possible exiting shareholders, a new management, and desperate search for a new strategy, the question of its turnaround come to the fore again.

STANCHART UAE

The UAE has become a core market for Standard Chartered Bank and has ended up one of bank's top five contributors in terms of trading profit when the bank concluded its first half financial statements.

Middle East South Asia (Mesa) region improved its operating profit from consumer banking by 70 per cent to $46 million for the six-months period ending June 30, 2002.

EXPO ON NOTED EXPLORER DRAWS CROWD

The exhibition on the life of famed explorer bin Majid provided a glimpse into the country's past.

Held at Deira City Centre, the exhibit was worth visiting, not only for those interested in history, but also for those keen on learning more about the UAE's contributions to modern marine science.

The event was part of the Heritage Week programme of DSS, which offered a wide range of cultural activities.

JORDAN BANS 'INSULTING' TV CHANNEL

Jordan has banned a popular Arabic TV channel from operating on its soil after it broadcast criticism of King Abdullah's Middle East policies.

The government shut down the offices of satellite TV channel al-Jazeera in Amman and prohibited its correspondents from working inside Jordan.

Jordan said al-Jazeera had broadcast a talk show on Tuesday in which speakers reportedly attacked the country's long-standing peace treaty with Israel, and criticised its policies on the Palestinians and Iraq.

US OFFICIAL TERMS SAUDI ARABIA ENEMY

A briefing to a Pentagon defence panel last month described Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States and recommended that it be given an ultimatum to stop "backing terrorism", The Washington Post said on Tuesday.

"The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader," said Rand Corp analyst Laurent Murawiec in his July 10 briefing to the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board.

"Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies," Murawiec said, describing the country as "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East.

ISLAMISTS ARRESTED IN MOROCCO

Moroccan police have arrested a number of Islamists they accuse of carrying out a series of murders.

Ten people were detained in Casablanca and about 20 more in other parts of the country.

The police say they are members of the radical Islamist group, Salafiya Jihadia and Takfir Wal Hidjra.

Analysts say these groups preach holy war and the strict application of Islamic law against Muslims perceived to be infidels.

'GAZA FIRST' PLAN FOUNDERS

The latest plan to establish a truce between Israel and the Palestinians was reminiscent of security co-operation arrangements drawn up in the 1990s.

Under the so-called "Gaza first" initiative the brainchild of Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer Israeli forces would withdraw from Palestinian territory in Gaza to positions held before the start of the Intifada in September 2000.