Apr 25 - May 08, 2005

A 12-member group of Indian musicians and dancers performed at a cinema hall in Doha last week as part of their worldwide tour covering 17 nations.

The team, brought together by Indian choreographer Soorya Krishnamoorthy, includes Karaikuritchi Mohanaraman (mridangam, and tabla), Joboy (drums), Janardhan (saxophone), Rahjesh Vaidya (veena), Alappuzha Karunamoorthy (Tavil) and vocalist K. Krishnakumar.

The Indian artistes arrived in Doha after their performances in Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Kuwait. The team of performers includes classical dancers Alarmelvalli (Bharatanatyam), Monisa Nayak (Kathak) and Meenakumari Sahoo (Odissi).

Speaking to Gulf Times on the eve of the program, Krishnamoorthy said the experienced team has performed before several international audiences.

Each of the artistes accompanying the group has carved a niche for himself, feels Krishnamoorthy.

"Though the event is named Fusion music, it is certainly much more than that," he pointed out. The artistes will criss-cross Doha on at least three occasions as part of their ongoing tour.

After the Doha performance, the artistes are to travel to the South East and will return to Doha en route to Europe, where they will perform in at least nine countries.

The Doha program was organized by Sarang, the local chapter of the Soorya Cultural Society. Soorya, the choreographer's brainchild, is believed to be the largest cultural society of its kind in Asia.


In a first step toward granting women full political rights, Kuwaiti lawmakers agreed last week to allow women to vote and run in local council elections, but the measure requires more legislative action before it would become law.

The measure was taken on a 26-20 vote for women's participation with three abstentions. The session was attended by more than three quarters of the 64 lawmakers and Cabinet ministers entitled to vote.

A second reading of the bill and a second vote, expected in two weeks, was required before the bill becomes a law. Then it would require the Kuwaiti ruler's signature, generally a formality and the emir have made clear in the past he supports women's political rights.

"Thank God, the first step toward women's rights has been completed ... We are waiting for the major step and I am sure it will be approved like this one," Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said.

"I congratulate my sisters for obtaining their rights in municipal elections and they will get their other rights in voting and standing in parliamentary elections," PM said.

The premier was confident that Kuwaiti women would get their full political rights during the current parliamentary term which ends in June and said he would appoint a female Cabinet minister once women are enfranchised. "This step prepares the ground for women's political rights in full at Parliament," said Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Sharar.

"There is acceptance and understanding ... for the need to have women participate in elections and political life in general," Sharar, who is also minister of state for Parliament and Cabinet affairs, told reporters. Kuwaiti women are barred from participating in parliamentary polls but the government has introduced a bill to grant full female suffrage that has yet to be approved by the 50-man house.

Similar government moves have failed in the past in the pro-Western country, including a 1999 law narrowly defeated by an alliance of conservative Islamist and tribal MPs.

Women activists gave a cautious welcome to decision, saying more was needed.

"Any move by Parliament toward granting women their right is seen as positive even though it is very late," said Masoumah Al-Mubarak, a Kuwait University professor. "We had hoped today to celebrate amending Kuwait's election law in totality, not just pertaining to the Municipal Council elections."

"This is the first step ... I hope women will run in these (municipal) elections, and we hope that the big step will be participation in Parliament," said Rola Dashti, a women's rights activist. Municipal Council elections are expected to be held in the second half of this year. The council comprises 16 members, six of whom are appointed by the emir.

"This bill is an achievement to broaden popular participation," liberal lawmaker Ahmed Al-Mulaifi told the house.

Kuwaiti women have reached high government posts, but conservative MPs don't want them campaigning among men or receiving male voters in their offices.

Earlier this month, the Islamic Affairs Ministry ruled that Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, has the last word on granting women equal political rights if religious scholars disagree on the issue. Sheikh Jaber supports the right for women to vote and run for office.


Iran's top security official told the Pakistani president's special envoy Abdul Sattar that Iran's policy is based on maintaining peace and security in the region.

Hassan Rowhani, who chairs the Iranian Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), said both Iran and Pakistan have common aims and interests which would guarantee lasting ties between the two neighbors.

Rowhani said the prevailing world economy and regional developments as well as common efforts for fight against terrorism and extremism and drug trafficking have made close cooperation between Tehran and Islamabad inevitable.

Pointing to Iran's nuclear talks with the European Union, he said Iran will never forego its right for making use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. He added the continuation of talks with the EU is dependent on an official recognition of Iran's nuclear rights.


The Muscat Securities Market (MSM), Oman's stock exchange, last week signed an agreement with Europe's leading IT solutions provider AtosEuronext to introduce a new trading system, called 'Euronext', by December this year.

Chairman Abdullah bin Salem Al Salmi and director general Ahmed Al Marhoon signed the deal for MSM and Dominique Brutin, chairman of the managing board, and Emmanuel Devedeux, vice-president and international sales director, for AtosEuronext.

The ceremony took place in the presence of Yahya bin Said Al Jabri, Executive President of the Capital Market Authority (CMA).

The new system can integrate markets and provide users with greater flexibility, as it will facilitate information dissemination and surveillance systems, a spokesman for MSM said.

The system is expected to create synergies, as it is a high performing model in many advanced and emerging markets worldwide. It will also cater to the future requirements of the Muscat Securities Market.

The system is currently in use by major bourses in countries like France, Belgium, Amsterdam, Malaysia, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon and Jordan.


"Eight years of sincere and fruitful cooperation between the government and the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines of Iran, has yielded very good results for the economy of the country", said Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari.

The commerce minister who was referring to the eight-year services under President Mohammad Khatami noted, "The period should be remembered as a bright era in good cooperation between the government and the private sector."

The move towards free economy, elimination of foreign exchange trading contracts and removing the tariff obstacles are agreed upon by both of the institutions, government and the Chamber of Commerce, Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) quoted him as saying last Wednesday. Elsewhere in his comments, he referred to the necessity of Iran's joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) and stated, "With most of the countries in the world joining the organization and the highly competitive economic world, Iran's membership in the organization is essential."

Reduction in the government's share in the petrochemical and metal industries as a cornerstone in the relations between the government and the private sector and said that increasing the non-oil exports to 75% is a great step and if the move continued, it would result in a leap in the non-oil exports.

He also alluded to the growth in the exports through the border markets as well as the increase in the exports of technical and engineering services and said that so far, Iran has concluded agreements worth $941 million with other countries on the exports of technical and engineering services.


Keeping the growth momentum in the iron and steel sector, India has emerged as the largest producer of sponge iron. The country produced 9.37 million tons of sponge iron in 2004 as compared with 7 million tons in 2003. Iran produced 6.4 million tons of the porous iron.

Venezuela produced 8.09 million tons in 2004 followed by Mexico which produced 6.65 million tons. India was also the largest producer of sponge iron in 2003 and 2002.

According to the Sponge Iron Manufacturers Association (SIMA), the gas-based units have grown by 11.47% while the coal-based units have shown a huge growth of 33.85%.

"In 2005, we are hoping to achieve 20% growth. However, a lot would depend on the availability of raw material and infrastructure support," Sandeep Jajodia, president of SIMA said.

Three vital inputs for the industry: iron ore, non-coking coal and natural gas have been in short supply. "There has been acute shortage of these inputs and we have urged the government to make suitable arrangements to ensure their availability," SS Bhatnagar, director of SIMA said, adding that there could be a new policy on the same.

CIL has already projected a shortage of 35-40 million tons for the current year. The mining sector must be improved to ensure the steady availability of coal and other inputs.

The country produces about 330 million tons of coal, with 100 million tons belonging to B and C grade, which are of superior quality. Mr Bhatnagar said that the sponge iron industry has urged the government to reserve at least 10% of this for the industry. A decision, however, is yet to be taken.


Tehran municipality plans to set up first paper recycling factory in the metropolitan city.

Tehran municipality cultural advisor said Ali Akbar Asha'ari said Tehran has put construction of a paper recycling factory on its agenda.

Asha'ari said over 450 tons of waste paper are produced daily in Tehran and are thrown away as garbage due to lack of a system to return them into the market for use.

Once constructed, the factory will recycle waste papers not only from Tehran, but also the papers left unused in other cities, the official said.

Tehran municipality will build the factory in cooperation with private companies.


Iraq has officially resumed crude oil exports to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, a State Oil Marketing Organization official said.

Oil exports through Turkey, previously averaging 350,000 barrels per day from Kirkuk oilfields some 250 kilometers (160 miles) north of Baghdad, have repeatedly been stopped by insurgency sabotage. In December, the tap was again shut off following an attack on a pipeline near Fathah, oil ministry spokesman Assim Jihad has said.

But an oil official acknowledged that, secretly, oil workers had managed to pump some 600,000 barrels to storage tanks in Turkey since the official close-down in December.

"We manage to push a few barrels through to our storage, but until now, we don't say much about it," the official said. "Whenever you report it, within one hour it will be bombed," the official said on condition of anonymity. "This will stimulate the appetite of the terrorists. We are frightened of them."

The SOMO official declined to give any new export statistics for security reasons.

An oil ministry official said exports would resume at 400,000 barrels per day.

A newly formed oil protection force of at least 1,500 troops has been unable to stop regular attacks on oil infrastructure and pipelines around Kirkuk.

In the latest attack, on Monday, saboteurs set a pipeline ablaze that carries crude oil from Kirkuk fields to Baiji refinery about 180 kilometers north of Baghdad.

According to the Iraqi government, the attacks have caused losses of between seven and eight billion dollars and an untold amount of environmental damage.

Iraq's southern exports stand at about 1.6 million barrels per day. The country exported about 2 million barrels per day, under the UN-sponsored oil-for-food program, before US-led troops invaded in March 2003.

Courtesy: Iran Times and Agencies