Nov 08 - 14, 2004






The unanimous election of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan will usher in a new era in the UAE, top officials from the government and private sector said last week.
They welcomed the new leadership and declared that the UAE would easily cope with the economic challenges ahead under Shaikh Khalifa, who is expected to play a key role in continuing to build a strong economy. They praised his credentials as a visionary leader.
"Shaikh Khalifa will continue to lead the country forward in its rapid march towards balanced economic development.





"He will implement the plans and strategies laid out by his late father," they said.

Shaikh Khalifa, 56, has been at the forefront of Abu Dhabi's and the UAE's development policies and activities since he was 21, and has vast experience in federal affairs as well as wide exposure to regional and international affairs.

Sultan Ahmad Bin Sulayem, executive chairman of the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corp, said the development and modernisation of the UAE will continue under the leadership of Shaikh Khalifa.

"Under his leadership, I am sure that the UAE will continue to grow and develop. With the quick and timely election of Shaikh Khalifa as the President of the UAE, the federation's leadership has demonstrated its willingness and determination to continue the development activities initiated by the late President Shaikh Zayed.

"During the last 33 years, we have achieved progress and prosperity to a great degree. The country has developed its human resources by investing in human capital and now all we need to do is continue the activities that will help us to grow. Under the new president, I am sure we will continue to grow," Bin Sulayem added.

Khalid Ali Al Bustani, assistant undersecretary for revenue and budget in the Ministry of Finance and Industry, said: "Shaikh Khalifa will follow the path that the late Shaikh Zayed took in creating a well-diversified economy that grew at a robust pace from year to year.


Oil prices continued their downturn last Friday, falling back from recent highs to their lowest levels in five weeks.

US light crude fell 25 cents to $48.57 a barrel in Asian trade, almost 13% down on the record $55.67 high set on 22 October.

Increased production from Opec members has helped rebuild US crude stockpiles, hit after Hurricane Ivan in September.

Analysts say the rising stocks were easing prices, but other warn ongoing violence in Iraq could reverse falls.

In New York on Nov 4, a barrel of US light crude ended down $2.03 to $48.85, the first time it has finished under $49 a barrel since late September.

In London, Brent crude closed down $1.61 to $45.95.

Another possible future supply pressure is the continuing threat of a strike in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer.

"(US) Oil inventories should rise over the next six to nine months, and this should eventually ease the extreme tightness in today's oil markets," said Adam Sieminski of Deutsche Bank.

Mr Sieminski said other factors that should help prices to fall were weakening global oil demand, and rising supplies both from the Opec oil producers group, and other oil exporting nations.

Opec has recently lifted production of oil above 30 million barrels per day to meet booming oil demand.

This supply surge has helped rebuild US crude stocks, which have risen 10 million barrels in the last two weeks.

Yet other oil analysts, such as Venezuela's energy minister Rafael Ramirez, take an opposing view, and warn that oil prices have yet to peak.




State-run Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has teamed up with Iran's Petropars to put forward a $3bn (1.63bn) joint project to develop a gas field in Iran.

The proposal from India's biggest refiner would also see it set up a liquefaction plant in Iran.

It follows talks between officials from India, Asia's third largest oil user, and Iran, the number two Opec producer.

IOC said a memorandum of understanding had been signed with Petropars, a unit of the National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC).

The agreement came after discussions between India's oil minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, and his Iranian counterpart, Bijan Zanganeh, in Vienna two months ago.

The agreement was signed "for development of a joint proposal to be submitted to National Iranian Oil Co. for the proposed integrated project of development of the gas field and setting up of LNG liquefaction facilities".

A feasibility report into the proposed project will be carried out to see how much of the $3bn scheme would be paid for by IOC.


Top world oil exporter Saudi Arabia will keep production turned up to 9.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in November as it seeks to curb runaway crude prices and meet growing demand.

November will mark the fourth straight month with Riyadh at the 9.5 million mark, but the high pumping rates have failed so far to ease record prices of more than $50 a barrel.

"Saudi Arabia will produce no less than 9.5 million in November," a Gulf source told Reuters. "Production in October was about 9.5."

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries meets on December 10 in Cairo to chart output strategy for early next year.

The source said it was too early to predict what action the group would take on first quarter production policy.

Riyadh's current output of 9.5 million bpd leaves it with 1.5 million bpd of spare capacity. The source said Saudi Arabia could tap that excess volume "immediately".


UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said it is "inconceivable" that America would try to bomb Iran.

There has been speculation about whether the newly re-elected George Bush will be more hawkish over Iran.

Pointing to talks with Tehran, Mr Straw said: "I don't see any circumstances in which military action would be justified against Iran, full stop."

After months of talks, Iranian president Mohammad Khatami recently said Iran was ready to pledge not to pursue nuclear weapons. But he wants recognition of Iran's right to peaceful nuclear technology.


Iran's parliament passed a bill recently backing the resumption of uranium enrichment, as the government left the door open for further negotiations with Europe over the controversial practice.

The vote by the parliament was largely symbolic, but the foreign ministry offered hope for negotiations this week in Paris with European countries, calling for concrete commitments if the Islamic Republic were to abandon uranium enrichment.

"We are expecting from them (Europe) a calendar of cooperation and we will insist on that point," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

"We expect that in the course of this (Paris) meeting the Europeans will specify their precise commitments, concrete and clear, and the Islamic Republic will take the best decision in line with its own interests," he added.


The aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says it is pulling out of Iraq because of "escalating violence".

MSF said it had become impossible "to guarantee an acceptable level of security for our staff, be they foreign or Iraqi".

Several aid workers have been kidnapped in Iraq including Margaret Hassan of Care International, who is still being held by her captors. Care has stopped its operations in Iraq and appealed for Mrs Hassan's release. MSF has 90 Iraqi staff. Its foreign workers left Iraq a month ago for Jordan.


The most senior Israeli army commander in Gaza has resigned his post.

Brig Gen Shmuel Zakai is believed to have told reporters that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered an operation in Gaza that the army thought unnecessary.

One report says Gen Zakai failed a polygraph test that was part of the investigation into the press leaks.

More than 100 Palestinians died in clashes after Israeli forces went into the Jabaliya camp in northern Gaza in late September for 17 days.


Leaders on both sides of the Middle East divide are monitoring developments at the military hospital near Paris where Yasser Arafat lies gravely ill.

According to medical sources inside the hospital, the Palestinian leader is on a life-support machine. A Palestinian official has said he is in a coma.


The United Arab Emirates has appointed its first female government minister.

Sheikha Lubna al-Qasimi, a member of the Sharjah royal family, is to take on the key job of economics and planning minister.

The move comes as a part of a wider government reshuffle and the merging of three ministries.

There are other women ministers in Gulf countries, in Bahrain, Oman and Qatar, but Sheikha Lubna's role is the most senior to date.


China has signed an agreement to buy oil and gas from Iran and to develop Iran's Yadavaran oil field, according to state media from both countries.

The deal was signed in Beijing by Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh and Ma Kai, head of China's National Development and Reform Commission.

China, which has longstanding ties with Iran, is searching for new energy reserves to drive its booming economy. The agreement will be carried out by Chinese oil company Sinopec.


Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan's economic vision, built on a free economy, helped the UAE achieve one of the highest growth rates in the world.

The strong foundations that have been built and the ongoing privatisation programmes will ensure that the UAE's momentum will be maintained, analysts said in their tributes to the former leader.

"Shaikh Zayed's economic foresight and clear policies created all-round growth in the economy and since the foundations are solid, this growth will continue. Few countries have achieved such impressive growth rates, especially when the world went through a recession," he said.

The UAE's private sector has doubled over the past ten years, offsetting volatile oil prices and ensuring jobs for a fast-growing population. In 2003, the UAE private sector's contribution to GDP was some Dh128.69 billion, about 44 per cent of the total GDP of Dh293.1 billion.




Business leaders are unanimous that His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan's accession as UAE President guarantees continuity for the economic and business friendly policies that have made the UAE a beacon in the Middle East.

They point to the steps the UAE has taken to integrate itself more closely into the global economy, whether it be through the dismantling of the telecom monopoly or the more recent decision to allow more foreign insurance companies to operate here.

The transition is sure to build confidence that business continuity will not be affected.

The creation of a first-rate educational system, consolidated through the Higher Colleges of Technology, has led to a new generation of skilled UAE nationals entering the professional mainstream.


Asian nations, particularly China, have a greater interest in a peaceful Middle East and Africa as their reliance on oil imports surges over the next 25 years, the head of ExxonMobil Corp said.

Lee Raymond, Chairman and Chief Executive of the world's biggest publicly traded oil company, said it would be "quite challenging" for the region to meet its future energy needs, with emerging Asia oil demand set to more than double by 2030.

"Asian countries, including China, will have an ever-greater stake in the resolution of problems that have arisen in the Middle East and Africa," Raymond said in a speech.

"There will be no way around greater reliance on the Middle East and Africa."

Asia imports about two-thirds of its 23 million barrels per day (bpd) crude oil requirement, most of that from the Middle East, where the bulk of the world's oil reserves are.


A state's future successes depend largely on how its foundation has been laid.

Over a span of three decades, the UAE has transformed itself from a collection of fishing settlements to one of the most modern and vibrant economies in the Arab world. Much of this has been possible due to the vision of one man, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Over the past 33 years, he offered the state an important gift his leadership, and turned the country around through rapid development, a record difficult to match in today's world.

Senior government officials and business leaders of the UAE paid tribute to Shaikh Zayed's valuable contributions.