GULF VIEW

 

Aug 15 - 21, 2005

.

SHARJAH AMONG TOP 10 BUSINESS CITIES IN GULF

Sharjah is among the top 10 business cities in the Persian Gulf region by achieving 8th position, says a survey report. The survey was based on the growth the emirate achieved in the recent years due to its excellent seaport, airport, free zones, industries and tourism. According to report issued by Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the value of Sharjah exports and re-exports reached Dh4.4 billion in the first half of this year compared to Dh2.8 billion recorded in the corresponding period of last year recording an increase of 53.9 percent which proves that it is one of the best cities for export business.

Sharjah has emerged as a top business city as several industries and manufacturing units established in the emirate contributes significantly to Sharjah's economy and the sector is witnessing a steady growth with the emirate currently accounting for more than 50 percent of the total manufacturing business in the UAE, according to a report.

In the recent years, Sharjah has also become the best place to set up business due to its busy ports and their strategic locations. Mina (Port) Khalid in Sharjah City and Khor Fakkan on the East Coast have a combined total of 17 berths and can handle a wide variety of tonnage, ranging from tankers, container vessels, pure car carriers, passenger ships, heavy lift ships, bulk carriers as well as many small vessels such as supply boats, tugs and barges. Moreover, Port Khalid is one of the easiest ports to enter in the Persian Gulf with only a short approach channel.

Sharjah Airport, the first airport in the UAE, also plays a major role in making the emirate a business hub as it welcomes around 100,000 passengers from various parts of the world and provides all the services and facilities that is expected in a first class international airport.

Air Arabia launched in 2003 is doing tremendous business and has increased its fleet with five Airbus A320s and flying to 18 destinations which proves the emirate's rapid economic growth. Last month, the airline carried 57 percent more passengers compared to the same period last year and within the next six months; the airline will offer new destinations across the region.

The emirate is changing beyond recognition with huge expansion projects, infrastructure upgrade, skyscrapers, and self-contained residential and commercial districts.

According to officials of Sharjah Expo Center, the hospitality industry and tourism in Sharjah generated more than Dh150 million of revenues in 2004 and is one of the best place to set up business as the government encourages the locals as well as the expatriates to establish any business without any legal hassles.

Apart from this, the emirate is one of the best places to set up business as it has two free zones offering excellent facilities to investors. Hamriya Free Zone emphasizes on free market systems and encourages Steel and Heavy industries because of long-term growth prospects. The steel industry is energy oriented and doing well globally. This free zone also encourages companies' involved in general industrial development, manufacturing, processing and assembling.

The other free zone, Sharjah Airport International Free Zone with a growth rate of more than 36 percent offers imports of raw materials, manufacturing, processing, assembling, packaging and exporting the finished products along with general trading and associated services.

GULF PRODUCERS RAISE CRUDE PRICES

Gulf producers Abu Dhabi, Oman and Qatar have raised their monthly crude oil prices. But Yemen has cut its crude formulas for September by 3¢ to 10¢ a barrel, the Middle East Economic Survey reported.

Qatar raised its two crude varities by $1.35 and $1.59 a barrel, even though its Oman MOG-based prices saw one formula rise by 19¢ a barrel and the other dip five cents below.

The Cyprus-based weekly added that Saudi Arabia has also increased the formula for its liquid petroleum gas contracts for August.

Saudi Aramco and Kuwait Petroleum Corporation said their equally priced monthly price formulas for propane was raised by $3 a tonne to $398 and butane went up by $6 a tonne to $406.

The three Gulf producers, who price their monthly formulas retrospectively, raised crude prices by $1.35 to $2 a barrel for July. Abu Dhabi raised its Murban, Lower Zakum and Umm Shaif crude varities by $1.65 a barrel and Upper Zakum by $2 a barrel, while Oman upped its single benchmark Ministry of Gas (MOG) crude by $1.40 a barrel.

LOUVRE MUSEUM TO MOUNT ISLAMIC ART EXHIBITION IN S. ARABIA

The world famous Louvre Museum of Paris will mount an exhibition of Islamic artifacts at the national museum here next January, said French diplomatic circles.

Prince Waleed ibn Talal, Chairman of Kingdom Holding Company, donated a gift of $20 million to the Louvre as part of his effort to promote Islam in the West.

"The exhibition in the capital will be a major step in the cultural relations between Paris and Riyadh," sources said, adding that such activities could bring the two countries still closer. France intends to display the masterpieces from its collections of Arabic and Islamic artifacts. The upcoming show is being arranged by the Musee du Louvre and the Supreme Commission for Tourism (SCT), in cooperation with the Department of Antiquities and Museums and the National Museum located at the King Abdulaziz Historical Center. An agreement for the exhibition was signed between SCT Secretary General Prince Sultan ibn Salman and Secretary General of the Louvre Henri Loyrette in Riyadh recently. The French are deeply appreciative of the contributions made by the members of the royal family towards developing Islam in France, sources said, recalling that two months ago King Abdullah during his visit as crown prince had donated 1 million euros to the Arab World Institute in France.

The Kingdom has signed cooperation agreements with France for various educational programs. Under the programs, Saudi Arabia is to send 50 students in November to pursue medical studies in more than 15 French universities. The seven-year graduate program funded by the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education is the first of its kind to be implemented in France, besides that plans are underway for a postgraduate program as well for Saudi graduates. In a related development, the French Embassy has selected a group of seven Saudi students to follow graduate courses in political science beginning in September.

The selected students will be studying in a new department meant for political science with a special emphasis on Middle Eastern politics. The new department, which will function under the Paris School of Politics, is located in Menton, south of France. These students will join other foreign students to pursue their studies in political science relevant to their region. Several programs with bilingual teaching (French and English) have been set up between Saudi and French universities to facilitate access to the most prestigious French institutions for Saudi students. They include major engineering schools such as Ecole des Mines, Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole des Ponts et ChaussČes, main business schools and the Paris School of Political Science.

In the field of archaeology, a Saudi-French team led by Professor Jean-Marie Dentzer, member of the French Academie des inscriptions et belles lettres, and Dr. Laila Nehme, an archaeologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), have been working for three years on the Madain Saleh Nabatean site in the northwestern part of Saudi Arabia, in cooperation with the Directorate of Antiquities and Museums.

The research program has produced interesting results and accordingly a comprehensive archeological and epigraphic GIS Atlas of the site will be published shortly.

REAL ESTATE IN JEDDAH

The real estate investment in the construction of apartment buildings, villas and commercial centers increased in Jeddah despite the increase in cement prices.

In a recent field study, it showed that currently Jeddah needs 45 thousand housing units to face the large increase in population in the next seven years. It is estimated that the cost will be SR202 billion.

IRAN BREAKS SEALS AT ISFAHAN UCF

Iran last week broke the UN nuclear watchdog's seals at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility, UN and Iranian officials said. "They have begun breaking the seals," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said. "They are going to break all the seals and begin operating the plant in full." Iran Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) Deputy Director Mohammad Saeedi told the Tehran Times correspondent in Vienna that the IAEA authorized Iran to remove the seals. IAEA officials agreed to Tehran's request to remove the seals after installing surveillance cameras to ensure no uranium is shifted away from the plant for any covert weapons work.

The European Union and Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) members of the IAEA Board of Governors were unable to convene a meeting because of differences over calls to draft a resolution on Iran's nuclear program. The NAM states on the IAEA Board even insisted that there is no need to draft a resolution. Gwozdecky said the plant at Isfahan "is fully monitored by the IAEA" and "is not a uranium enrichment plant." "Their uranium enrichment plant in Natanz remains frozen, and they have indicated it will remain that way," he said. "This plant (Isfahan) produces feed material that could one day be used in enrichment." Still, he said, Iran's decision "isn't particularly helpful." "This is a process of confidence building," he added. "The international community, through our board of governors, has asked Iran to put on hold activities that are not urgently needed right now and allow this dialogue... as well as allow the inspectors to finish their job." In Vienna, the IAEA Board of Governors postponed a planned meeting to give delegates more time to hammer out a resolution on the issue.

The UN watchdog placed the seals on some sections of the Isfahan UCF after Tehran agreed to a request by Britain, Germany, and France to suspend all nuclear fuel cycle work last November in order to allay international concern about its nuclear program.

Iran on Monday restarted work in the unsealed areas of the plant after rejecting a package of economic and political incentives from the EU3 to give up its nuclear fuel cycle program.

IAEO Director Gholamreza Aqazadeh told Iranian state TV on Tuesday night that the suspension of peaceful nuclear activities in Iran was a political measure.

"According to the safeguard agreements, there is no problem with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the suspension of nuclear activities at the Isfahan UCF was a voluntary act meant for confidence-building."

He called the EU's recent nuclear proposal to Iran insulting, saying, "So far, Europe has not presented a constructive nuclear proposal to Iran."

Aqazadeh noted that the EU has asked for export controls over Iran's nuclear equipment, conditional production of radio-isotopes, the sealing of all nuclear equipment so that it cannot be used in other installations, and the approval of a law according to which Iran would not have the right to withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and asked Iran to grant IAEA inspectors permission to visit any site in Iran and to interview anyone they like.

"These are only part of Europe's proposal to Iran, which indicates a part of their insult to the nation." He stressed that Iran's peaceful nuclear activities serve as a model for members of the Non-Aligned Movement and other states seeking nuclear technology. "Therefore, Iran's efforts to defend its legitimate rights also benefit other countries."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi called the EU officials' demands that Iran suspend activities at the Isfahan UCF "illogical and selfish". Iran's move is entirely within the framework of international regulations, Asefi added.

The EU has misunderstood the situation because Iran's commitment to negotiations does not at all mean that it is willing to compromise the Iranian nation's legitimate right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, he said. The resumption of activities at the Isfahan UCF is a move to defend the inalienable rights of the Iranian people, and pressure and intimidation cannot force Tehran to relinquish the rights of the people, he emphasized.

After receiving Iran's negative response to their illogical proposal, the Europeans started raising a commotion, said Asefi, adding that they are speaking of confidence-building despite the fact that they have taken no steps in that direction. Europe has interpreted the Paris Agreement in its own way, but it should act upon its commitments instead of raising a stir, he said.

Asefi called the recent statements of certain European officials about Iran's nuclear dossier "undiplomatic and rude", adding that such statements are tantamount to intervention in Iran's internal affairs and thus unacceptable. The Islamic Republic of Iran has had "constructive and positive" cooperation with the IAEA and with the passage of time, it becomes clearer that Iran's nuclear programs and activities are of a peaceful nature and free of any ambiguity or diversion from international regulations.

New Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad told UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in a phone call on Monday night that Iran is willing to continue negotiations on its nuclear program. But Ahmadinejad rejected the EU proposal meant to settle the dispute as "an affront to the Iranian nation." "I have new initiatives and proposals which I will present after my government takes office," he told Annan.

U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Texas that Ahmadinejad's willingness to come back to the table is "a positive sign", but warned that the United States is "deeply suspicious" of Iran's goals. Sirus Naseri, Iran's delegate to the IAEA, told reporters Tuesday that an Iranian settlement proposal is still on the table for European consideration. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said he hopes the dispute between Iran and the EU is "simply a hiccup, not a permanent rupture." He urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

"Our strategy has been all along to work with Germany, France, and Great Britain in terms of sending a strong signal and message to Iran," Bush said. "Today it looked like the new Iranian leader has heard that message," he said. The bottom line, Bush said, is that "we don't want the Iranians to have nuclear weapons."

Naseri, speaking in Vienna, scoffed at the U.S. insistence that Iran should not have nuclear weapons. "The United States is the sole nuclear weapons state which had the guts to drop the bomb and kill and maim and turn into ashes millions in a split second," he said, referring to the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60 years ago this month.

"The United States is in no position whatsoever to tell anyone or to preach what they should or should not do with their nuclear program." The German government said Iran had rejected the EU3's incentives after only "brief and superficial review" and appealed to Tehran to take the "sensible path" and look at the proposals again.

"We appeal urgently to the Iranian side to return to the status quo ante, to a full suspension of all enrichment-related activities," a government spokesman said. The IAEA Board convened an emergency meeting on Tuesday but quickly adjourned to give the trio time to negotiate with other key members of the 35-nation board about the text of an IAEA resolution urging Iran to immediately resume the suspension. One EU diplomat said that the United States, Russia and China and other Western countries on the IAEA Board all supported its toughly-word draft resolution, but developing countries like India, Brazil, and others opposed it.

"The non-aligned countries don't want a resolution at all, but we're meeting with them today and will make it clear that they're a minority," the diplomat told Reuters. "I think they'll give in. We're quite firm on the need for a resolution." Around a third of the IAEA Board members are non-aligned. The board was expected to reconvene on Thursday, diplomats said.

Iran says it needs to develop nuclear power as an alternative energy source to meet booming electricity demand and preserve its oil and gas reserves for export. Iran's new President Mahmud Ahmadinejad defended the resumption of work at the plant. But he said Tehran wanted to continue negotiations with the EU, adding that he had new ideas on how to resolve the nuclear standoff with the West.

Britain told Iran that there was still time for it to resume the suspension and reopen talks with the EU. "The door remains open for Iran to come back to the Paris Agreement process by urgently halting all work at (Isfahan) and recommitting itself to the suspension and the Paris Agreement," Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement. However, the head of Iran's delegation to the IAEA meeting, Sirus Naseri, said that Iran would not reverse its decision.

(Inputs from PAGE sources and courtesy to Tehran Times)