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 5. TRADE  6. GULF



Feb-18 24, 2002

Bahrain now a kingdom

Months of speculation and rumours of a new political system in the country ended when the State of Bahrain was declared the Kingdom of Bahrain with a constitutional monarchy, a National Assembly with two chambers one elected directly by the people and the other to be appointed by the King, and fresh parliamentary and municipal elections to be held this year.

Thus henceforth, the Emir His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was declared His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain.

In a historic address to the nation, King Hamad announced that the municipal elections will be held on May 9, followed by the parliamentary polls on October 24, this year.

The constitutional changes announced also included equal participation of women and men in both municipal and parliamentary elections, the establishment of a Constitutional Court and an Audit Bureau which will enjoy full independence.

In a special ceremony organised at Al Safriya Palace, King Hamad issued the first Royal Order for 2002 declaring the State of Bahrain as the Kingdom of Bahrain and the official title of the Emir to be the King of Bahrain.

He also ordered that both the Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and the Crown Prince and Defence Force Commander-in-Chief Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to carry out this order with effect from February 14, 2002.

"It is a day of honouring a pledge to attain our historical aspiration which we made with our sincere people for reactivating the Constitution of Bahrain including the amendments stipulated in the National Action Charter.

In keeping with this promise and pledge for achieving further gains and freedoms, the State of Bahrain has been declared the Kingdom of Bahrain besides establishing constitutional institutions reflecting the joint resolve represented by the overwhelming popular approval of the referendum on the Charter," said the Bahraini monarch.

Qatar sees budget surplus

Wilting oil prices have dented growth in Qatar, but the Arab state still expects a budget surplus mainly due to its conservative income forecasts, bankers and officials said.

Initial estimates by Qatar Central Bank and Qatar National Bank show a gross domestic product (GDP) fall of 1.8 per cent to two per cent in nominal terms in 2001, after a surge of 34.9 per cent in 2000 on strong oil and natural gas revenues.

Finance Minister Yousef Hussein Kamal said the budget is on course to produce a forecast surplus of 497 million riyals ($136.5 million), if Qatar's oil price remains above $17 a barrel up to the end of the fiscal year in March 2002.

"A conservative assumption of oil prices in the budget estimate makes the magic," a Finance Ministry official said.

Eastern Morris Crane opens Saudi facility

Eastern Morris Crane Company commissioned a new plant in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Its joint venture partner is H.A. Al Zamil & Bros. Co., and its units will be sold in the kingdom and the other Gulf markets.

"We have already supplied more than 500 cranes to Saudi Arabia and our aim is to increase this number, as well as to provide comprehensive servicing facilities," said Michael Addock, chairman of Morris Cranes UK.

"We believed in the advantages and opportunities of investing in Saudi Arabia with new joint ventures. Our cranes are very important in the growing industrial manufacturing market of Saudi Arabia and as a customer to the UK.

"Morris greatly values its partnership with Al Zamil Group, which is based on mutual trust and interdependence.

"Al Zamil will supply commercial knowhow and local knowledge and Morris Cranes will guarantee technical components for the operation and will supply the components for crane manufacturing." Morris Cranes has had a presence in the Saudi market for 50 years.

UK's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Sir Derek Plumbly, opened the new facility.

"UK is the third largest exporter to the Saudi Arabia and we need to have more globalisation through direct investment in both countries. Opportunities will exist here as economic reforms move ahead.

"UK welcomes Saudi investment in Britain and our government also encourages British companies to look for investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia, in line with Saudi government investment initiatives under new regulations." There are over 90 Saudi-British joint ventures in the kingdom.

Fujairah seminar discusses role of WTO

The World Trade Organisation's (WTO) commercial agreements and its influence on the industrial sector and the trade of industrial products in the UAE was discussed recently at a seminar in Fujairah.

It was organised by the Fujairah Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture and the Fujairah Department of Industry and Economy, and was held in co-operation with the United Nations Development Programme.

"The seminar is very important in terms of realising the effects of the WTO's agreement on our industrial and agricultural sectors, and the topics discussed would help clarify several matters about which our private sector is more concerned," said Khalifa Khamis Mattar Al Kaabi, chairman of the Fujairah Chamber.

ME peace linked to just solution: OIC-EU dialogue ends

The two-day joint forum of the Organization of Islamic Conference and the European Union on the political dimension of civilization and harmony ended on a high note of hope and an 8-point agreement on the basis of which the representatives of the two bodies decided to continue the dialogue within the aim to enhance understanding between Islam and the developed world.

Appropriately held in Istanbul, the geographical crossroad of the two cultures and fittingly sponsored by Turkey, a country which perhaps has succeeded over the years to merge the two cultures in its nationhood, the forum was described as a good beginning by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem.

The forum reaffirmed its strong belief that cultures, in their diversity, complement and enhance one another. Also, the forum confirmed its belief in the harmony among civilizations and in its attainability.

Knowledge of one another through communication and cooperation for the promotion of common universal values such as those enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights instruments was considered to be main means to support coherence and solidarity, and to avoid racial, religious and cultural prejudices. To this end, it was felt that the two political organizations have a joint responsibility towards contributing to achievements of these goals.

The forum further affirmed that terrorism cannot be justified for any cause whatsoever. It recognized the joint responsibility to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestation within the framework of the United Nations, in conformity with its Charter and its resolutions.

Balanced U.S. approach sought

A Synod of the Anglican Church's senior clergy and lay representatives from Cyprus and Gulf countries called on U.S. President George W. Bush to strike a balance in dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"We want peace in Palestine but that would only come with the U.S. being more even handed," said Rev. Peter Roberts, Anglican Church Chaplain for Dubai, Sharjah and the Northern Emirates.

In its letter to Bush, the Synod called on the U.S. leadership to "involve itself as a matter of extreme urgency in an even-handed mission to bring the conflict to a close."

The 40-member council expressed "serious concern" over the continuing and escalating violence since the beginning of the latest Palestinian Intifada.

Oman, Syria sign MoU to boost tourism

The Sultanate of Oman and Syria have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to boost tourist cooperation between the two countries. Minister of Commerce and Industry Maqbool bin Ali Sultan and Syrian Minister of Tourism Dr Sadallah Agha Al Gala signed the MoU in Muscat recently.

"It is a major breakthrough in the field of tourist cooperation between the two brotherly countries," said Bin Ali Sultan, following the signing ceremony.

Iran's aviation chief quits after jet crash

The head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organisation has resigned after a plane crashed into a mountain in the west of the country killing all 119 on board, the official IRNA news agency said.

CAO chief Behzad Mazaheri's resignation increases pressure on Transport Minister Ahmad Khorram to heed the calls of parliamentarians and also step down. The previous transport minister died in a plane crash last May.

"In Kuwait, an oil well catches fire and four people are burnt to death and the oil minister resigns after taking responsibility... Why is it that in Iran nobody feels responsible for plane crashes?" the agency quoted one unnamed MP as saying.

Top local banker may head Emaar bank

The chief executive of a multinational city-based bank is said to have been picked to head the much-talked-about Emaar bank which is in the process of being set up this year.

Though it could not be confirmed officially, the banking industry has confirmed this to Gulf News. Emaar Properties, the promoter of this bank, which is expected to be a full-fledged commercial bank, has already advertised for key personnel to head different divisions of the bank.

New law to streamline Sharjah body

The Sharjah Economic Development Department will shortly get a comprehensive law regulating all its activities. The law might be issued "as early as next week", stated Sheikh Tariq bin Faisal Al Qasimi, chairman, after attending the fortnightly Sharjah Consultative Council meeting held at the Emiri Diwan on Wednesday.

The new law will seek to unify the various regulations under which it has so far been functioning, he added. In a related move, council members also studied the proposed legislation governing Sharjah Civil Aviation Authority, with this law expected to be issued within a month.

Al Wathba to enhance production

Al Wathba Marionnet, a pioneering UAE-France joint venture of cloning date palms, is enhancing production this year but will concentrate on penetrating deeper into existing export markets, a top company official said.

To cope with rising demand, the company has embarked on an expansion to increase production of date palms to 300,000 by end-2003 from the current 200,000 date palms a year, Franck Mario-nnet, general manager of the company said.

DSF promotion

Emirates National Oil Co (Enoc) and its petroleum retailing subsidiary, Emirates Petroleum Products Company (Eppco), have announced their biggest Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) promotion, aimed at making the emirate's upcoming mega event the most lucrative in its seven-year history.

Cash prizes totalling Dh6.6 million and 93 premium cars will be up for grabs at Enoc or Eppco service stations in Dubai, throughout the festival.

Tunisian leader seeks to extend rule

Tunisia's President, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, has announced plans for a referendum on constitutional reform which could pave the way for him to seek a fourth term in office.

An official statement, published on Wednesday, said the wide-ranging reforms would include guarantees to protect human rights and introduce a two-chamber parliament.

40 pilgrims die in bus accident

Forty Haj pilgrims from the UAE died when the bus they were travelling in collided head on with a truck in Saudi Arabia's Al Ihsa province.

They included 38 Pakistanis, one Egyptian and the Syrian bus driver identified as Mousa Al Olayan, all of whom perished in the tragedy when both vehicles burst into flames. The Saudi truck driver also died.

Sultan donates Dh1m to help needy artistes

The curtain rang down on yet another colourful edition of Sharjah's Theatrical Days last night with the plays Fathers for Sale and The Gravedigger (Al Haffar) walking away with the top honours.

Concurrently, Sheikh Essam bin Saqr Al Qasimi, chairman, Sharjah Department of Culture & Information, announced His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, had ordered a new social welfare fund for the Thespians Association in the UAE.

Fake goods dealers face fines

Traders who deal in fake products will be penalised by as much as half the value of the confiscated items. It will be imposed by Sharjah Municipality which aims to maintain its market reputation as well as the welfare of both agents and consumers.

Pluto Airlines launched

Pluto Airlines, Sharjah's first private airline, was launched, promising quality passenger and cargo services at competitive fares.

"The airline launched by Al Fahem Group will commence operations in the first week of March on the Sharjah-Muscat-Sharjah sector," Sheikha Sayad Al Qasimi, the airlines' chairperson and managing director, stated.

Emirates denies engine deal

Emirates airline denied that it has selected Pratt and Whitney engines for the superjumbo A380s on order from Airbus, saying that it is still in negotiations with various engine manufacturers.

"Emirates placed its largest-ever aircraft order valued at $15 billion at the Dubai Air Show in November last year and has since been in discussions with all engine manufacturers. Those talks are still on-going and not yet concluded, so these suggestions are premature," said a spokesman for the airline.

Poor growth of e-finance

Almost a quarter of the banks in the GCC believe that the slow uptake of e-finance services by their customers is the biggest hurdle to the growth of e-finance in the region.

A recent survey by Accenture of executives from 52 Gulf-based financial services firms found that by end-2001 only 3.7 per cent of all banking transactions were carried out online.

Israelis pull out after killing five

Israeli troops started pulling out of Beit Hanoun last night after a massive sweep of three Gaza Strip towns which left five Palestinians dead.

The violence came as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw arrived in Israel for talks with his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to try to shore up Europe's role in kickstarting the peace process. The control of violence is completely within the capacity of Arafat, Straw said in Jerusalem.

Israeli forces and tanks had appeared to be digging in this northern Gaza town, where a Palestinian policeman and civilian were killed by gunfire.

But their tanks started pulling out last night and heading for the Israeli border, Palestinian officials said.

Gulf Air and Qantas in deal

Gulf Air is to enter into a code sharing agreement, effective from April 1 pending government approval, with Qantas between Sydney and Singapore for passengers travelling to the Middle East.

NextCare signs accords in UAE

NextCare, a third party administrator (TPA) in the global healthcare industry, has signed several contracts in the UAE and has set up operations in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

The company won its biggest contract, in association with Al Sagr National Insurance Co, from Etisalat, which has more than 22,000 beneficiaries enrolled under its corporate health scheme, a report said.

Emirates Bank to focus on Gulf

Emirates Bank Group is drawing up a strategic plan whereby the feasibility of the group's existing branch network within and outside UAE will be reviewed.

Suleiman Mazrouei, chief manager of EBG's group affairs, said the bank's Hong Kong branch had been closed down and the Cairo branch of Middle East Bank was being phased out, subject to the rules and regulations there.

EBG, which has one of the widest branch networks by any UAE-based bank, with a presence in London, Pakistan, Egypt, India and Lebanon, has plans to strengthen presence in the GCC.

GCC states hold talks

The Gulf Co-operation Council has started talks to realise an ambitious plan to unify customs tariffs and create a common market that will be launched on schedule by early 2003.

Trade ministers met for two days in Riyadh this week to discuss common specifications for imported products and items produced locally to guarantee a smooth flow of goods into member states.

The ministers also reviewed decisions by the GCC heads of state during their summit in Muscat last December to set up a new specifications and standards authority.

Fujairah zone

Five new factories are expected to open this year at Fujairah Free Zone Authority, which recorded a 17 per cent rise in turnover for 2001.

"We are considering applications of five new companies who wanted to set up factories to produce electronic chips and circuits for computers, televisions, phones and cassette recorders," Sharief Habib Al Awadhi, Director General of the Fujairah Free Zone Authority.

Dubai e-government and DTCM join hands

Dubai e-government in co-ordination with Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has extended the reach of its e-services to the local hospitality sector.

The portal has also taken steps to facilitate tourists interested in visiting Dubai by incorporating a channel, 'Visiting Dubai', offering information about the emirate, including visa regulations, availability and fees.

Search resumes for Iran crash victims

Rescuers have resumed the search for bodies of those killed in a plane crash in the snow-covered mountains of western Iran.

Helicopters are now being brought to the area because of the difficulty of reaching the crash site.

Despite the difficult terrain, rescue teams including mountaineering experts, managed to reach the crash scene on Tuesday and Red Crescent officials set up tents nearby.

The operation was halted as night fell and bad weather closed in.

All 117 people on board the plane 105 passengers and 12 crew are believed to have died when it crashed while flying from Tehran to the city of Khorramabad on Tuesday morning.

Four government officials and four foreigners were among those who perished on the Tupolev 154.

Karzai reopens embassy in UAE

Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai reopened his country's mission in the United Arab Emirates on Monday, one of only three countries that once recognized the Taliban.

The official WAM news agency said Karzai, who arrived in the UAE on Sunday on a two-day visit, raised Afghanistan's flag over the embassy at a ceremony attended by UAE Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Saif Said bin Saed and other officials.

US 'working to topple Saddam'

US Secretary of State Colin Powell says Washington is determined to see the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, removed from power.

Mr Powell told a global youth forum organised by the MTV television network that the Iraqi regime had to change or be changed.