A festive atmosphere has also descended in the past
days with even more cars than usual clogging the streets and the city
pulsing with the sounds of traditional music and dancing from guest
GULF STATES' ACTION
Arab states will put new checks in place next month
to protect their financial systems from abuse in a region that has
provided Al Qaeda with most of its funds, it is learnt.
Mohamed Baasiri, who heads the Middle East and
North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENA FATF), has reportedly
said that the region had made significant strides over the past year
in regulating charities and money transfers that could fund terrorism.
We still have a long way to go but if I compare the
situation in the MENA countries now to a year ago, or even three or
four years ago, we have done a lot, Baasiri said.
The important thing is the MENA countries are
committed to the process because it is in their interests to join the
global fight against terrorism financing and money laundering.
Fourteen Arab states founded MENA FATF in November,
pledging to implement world standards to combat the use by Al Qaeda
and other terrorist groups of the global financial system.
At the second plenary meeting in Beirut on
September 26-27, the members will set up a crucial system for
reviewing each other's measures to fight money laundering and
terrorism financing. The session will also discuss models for
controlling the informal 'hawala' system of cash transfer, charities
and cash couriers, although Baasiri admitted the toughest challenge
lay in enforcing new rules. Gulf States have already tightened control
over donations. The Gulf countries have done impressive work
controlling charities to make sure funds don't go to offenders ...
they has done a good deal regulating this hawala system.
The hawala system can be supervised by the central
bank. You can ask them to register, make it illegal for hawala not to
register but like anything you can't guarantee it won't happen. Iraq
and Mauritania should be admitted to the regional body at next month's
session, Baasiri said. Libya, Sudan and other countries have also
expressed interest in joining, while existing members are working to
install or strengthen financial intelligence units to detect
suspicious cash movements.
Few Middle Eastern countries have effective
financial intelligence units, which US officials say are a must if
they are to prove they are serious about combating terrorism
financing. So far, only five of the 14 MENA FATF members have joined
the Egmont Group of global financial intelligence units, which
collect, analyze and exchange financial information to help fight
money laundering and terrorism financing.
Qatar was the latest to come on board in June.
Baasiri said Saudi Arabia would join soon.
I would expect most MENA FATF members to join
Egmont starting next year. I would give it a time-frame of one to
three years Baasiri said.
Iran is to create a $1.3billion 'love fund' to
encourage poor young people to marry, the country's vice president
said, it is reported.
Iranian youngsters often complain they cannot
afford to get married and are living with their parents longer than
"The love fund is a realization of the new
government's slogan — taking oil money to the tables of the
people," state television quoted Vice President Farhad Rahbar as
Populist conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
swept to election victory in June on a pledge to distribute the oil
earnings of the world's fourth biggest crude producer more fairly.
The government's share in the $1.3billion for the
Reza Love Fund will be deducted from the oil income of the National
Iranian Oil Company, Rahbar said, without elaborating on how the money
would be used to help young couples.
Each province would have a board of trustees to
determine how much money needy couples should get. Iran's oil earnings
above a budgeted level go into the Oil Stabilization Fund, which is
only meant to be used in emergencies, should oil prices slump.
Iran's Central Bank, the International Monetary
Fund and rating agencies have all warned against raiding it for other
schemes, arguing this could exacerbate inflation, already running
The 'love fund' bill will be the first piece of
legislation submitted to parliament by Ahmadinejad's government.
Parliament is dominated by populist conservatives who have long
advocated raiding the oil fund for social spending.
IRAN'S NUCLEAR SCENARIO
Iran's top nuclear negotiator is due to visit
Pakistan soon as part of Tehran's effort to head off warnings over its
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman said Ali
Larijani would arrive in Islamabad on Sunday evening or Monday
"He is likely to tell us about Iran's
discussions with the IAEA and the European Union on the nuclear
issue," spokesman Muhammad Naeem Khan said.
Pakistan, Iran and India have been discussing the
building of $7 billion pipeline that would carry Iranian gas to
energy-hungry India via Pakistan, a project opposed by Washington.
Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali
Larijani called regional security a necessity for neighboring
On his arrival from a three-day trip to India,
Larijani said that Iran, India, Pakistan and China enjoy geo-strategic
positions in the Middle East and are capable of leading the region. He
called for efforts to establish strategic ties among these four great
On his negotiations with Indian officials, Larijani
said that talks were held on various issues including oil and gas,
regional affairs and the expansion of diplomatic ties.
On the nuclear issue, he noted that Iran's new
government holds a positive view toward its cooperation with the
International Atomic Energy Agency and seeks to conduct nuclear
activities within the framework of the IAEA charter.
Larijani expressed hope that the IAEA secretary
general Mohammad El Baradei's report on Iran's nuclear activities,
which is due to be released today, would pave the way for further
cooperation between Iran and the agency.
He noted that nuclear negotiations with Europe can
continue but talks are only meant to facilitate Iran's dealings with
the IAEA. Iran's main partner in the nuclear issue is the IAEA, he
Larijani noted that Iran has observed the IAEA
resolutions, the latest of which had mentioned the suspension of
activities in the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility was voluntary
and not legally-binding. He added that the UCF is not part of the
nuclear fuel cycle process. Larijani stated that Iran is ready to hold
talks with European or other countries but believes that negotiations
should positively influence the nuclear issue rather than produce a
INDIA TO BUY 5 MILLION TONS OF LNG FROM IRAN EVERY
YEAR TILL 2009
India's Foreign Minister Natwar Singh arrived in
Tehran atop a high ranking political delegation. The high ranking
Indian delegation was welcomed by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki
at the airport. In welcoming ceremony, Mottaki evaluated mutual
relations, as "old, friendly and expanding. Deepening and
expansion of bilateral ties would be the topic of our negotiations.
India is to buy 5 million tons of Iran's Liquid
Natural Gas (LNG) annually as of the year 2009.† Indian delegation
is likely to have final dialogue over the deal during its stay in
Iran. Energy experts were of the view that if the transaction for 5
million tons of LNG was transpired between the two countries, the much
talked about cross border gas pipeline project from Tehran-Pakistan-
India might get a severe dent. LNG transportation does not require a
pipeline it could be transported in especially designed containers by
air or sea transportation, the experts said.
However, the area of cooperation between Iran and
India is wide and diversified, he noted, "and cooperation in the
field of energy is among the issues which would be followed in Tehran
this time." Mottaki also notified, "International and
regional issues are also on the agenda of our talks with Indian high
ranking officials." Expressing pleasure over traveling to Tehran,
Premier Natwar Singh, too, said, "I am conveying Indian nation
message to the Iranians for the success of Iran's new President
Ahmadinejad in election."
India's foreign minister in his 3-day visit to
Tehran will confer with President Ahmadinejad and some other Iranian
senior officials. Currently, trade exchange values between Iran and
India is more than 3 billion dollars annually, which is expected to
rise drastically upon exploitation of the existing potentials,
particularly in energy field.
FIRST WOMAN BROADCASTER
"The news is read to you by Najwa Moemena."
That announcement broadcast last Monday by the Jeddah radio station
marked the debut of a woman broadcaster served as a news anchor in
Moemena has presented numerous radio programs
discussing social and political issues.
She began her career at age 10 on radio children's
programs. Although the presence of women on Saudi radio goes back to
its beginnings, and women have been broadcasting news briefs for 15
years, never before last Monday had a woman served as news anchor.
"I felt a huge weight of responsibility on my
shoulders as I started reading the news. "I felt in charge ...
not merely for presenting the newscast, but for being a symbol of hope
in the continuing march of change among Saudi broadcasters."
The decision to allow Saudi women to broadcast the
news was made at the last meeting of the administration in Riyadh. Dr.
Abdullah Al-Jaser, deputy minister of Media Affairs, gave the green
light, as there is no rule prohibiting women from presenting the news.
The atmosphere in the newsroom where Moemena made
the broadcast was one of excitement and anticipation. Moemena recalls
that broadcast director Khaled Jad helped her every step of the way
and did not leave her until she went to the newsroom.
All my coworkers at the radio station in Jeddah
gathered with station manger Dr. Abdullah Al-Shayea to hear the One
o'clock news I announced," she said. "I was so touched by
Station plans are to continue to have Moemena
anchor the 1 p.m. Saturday newscasts with Dalal Diyaía. Moemena said
she is ready to play a wider role in presenting the news if the
station proposes it. Veteran broadcaster Salwa Shaker, who presented
the news briefs half an hour after Moemena, said she hopes progress
continues to give women greater opportunities in the broadcasting
field. Shaker broadcast news for the Saudi Channel television station
in 1976 for three months before she traveled to the United States to
continue her media studies.
That was the last instance of a Saudi woman taking
such a broadcast leadership role. Although Saudi women do not present
the news at Saudi Channel One, there are other outlets, such as Al-Arabiya
News channel or Saudi Channel Two.
Revenues of Gulf producers have shot up as world
oil prices soar, enabling them to launch expensive projects, but
economists said yesterday they had failed to use the windfall to
ensure continued economic growth.
GCC producers are set to reap revenues of around
$265bn from oil this year, said Jassem al-Saadun, head of Kuwait's
Al-Shall Economic Consultants.
The estimate is based on an average price of $50 a
barrel and combined exports of 14.5mn barrels per day (bpd), Saadun
But with crude trading above $70 a barrel in New
York, Saudi economist Ihsan Bu Hulaiga said the estimate was based on
"conservative figures" and Gulf states' income from oil
sales could be even higher.
Saadun said Gulf States would earmark part of the
income on ìinfrastructure projects in the fields of health,
education, electricity, water and oil, which have been blocked for
Some, chiefly Saudi Arabia and Oman, would also use
part of their revenues to service their public debt, he said.
Saudi Arabia, which pumps some 9.5mn bpd and is the
world's biggest oil exporter, has a public debt of $176bn. It has
announced that it will use part of last year's $26bn budget surplus to
repay some of the debt.
Other Gulf producers, namely Kuwait and the UAE,
are taking advantage of the surge in oil prices to beef up their
currency reserves, Saadun said.
Petrodollars are also helping "buy political
loyalty", said Saadun, citing salary increases for civil servants
recently decreed in a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait and the UAE.
Most Gulf countries have announced
multi-billion-dollar development projects in the past few months.
Earlier this month, new Saudi King Abdullah ordered
a 15% hike in public sector salaries and the handing out of almost
$22bn on housing, health and education projects as well as raising the
capital of development funds.
But Saadun argued that Gulf producers were not
doing enough to ensure long-term economic growth and promote non-oil
sectors of the economy, saying they were instead building "bubble
The Gulf States "are repeating their mistakes
by entrusting the public sector with carrying out giant projects in a
short time without such ventures having a long-term impact on economic
growth," he said.
"This is liable to increase costs and hamper
the growth of the private sector, rendering it unable to compete with
the public sector," Saadun said.
"People may be happy with the extra wealth,
but if the rise in oil prices does not last, the boom will end in five
to 10 years" without leaving a lasting impact on the region's
economies, Saadun added.
Bu Hulaiga was more hopeful about the Gulf States'
ability to exploit the "golden opportunity" offered by the
surge in oil prices, although he stressed they should do more to
reduce their dependence on oil.
The GCC states should "collectively and
individually launch specific plans with tight timetables to promote
non-oil sectors which can sustain economic growth." He said this
can only be done by "developing human resources, which never run
Economic policies should seek to "bridge the
gap between the economies of (Gulf) producers and those of members of
the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
within a decade, which is difficult but not impossible," Bu
High oil prices have not been a boon all the way,
at least in some producing countries. The UAE has announced a 30% rise
in the price of petrol and diesel at the pumps due to soaring costs.
"Oil production is one thing and distribution
another," Abu Dhabi-based oil official Jamal Zareef said, adding
that distribution companies could not continue to put up with losses
resulting from high prices on world markets.
POWER BREAKS DOWNS IN JEDDAH
The power outage, which hit more than 10
neighborhoods in Jeddah, paralyzed many government departments and
affected private citizens.
According to a report, hundreds of families left
their overheating homes and drove to relatives' houses in areas
unaffected by the power cuts.
Many people across the city found themselves
trapped in elevators; the Fire Department responded to frantic calls
to release them. Businesses that rely on continuity of electric supply
reported considerable damage to their operations.
Abdul Aziz Al-Ghamdi, father of four, was outraged
by the power failure. The power cut happened at a time when his young
daughter was sick with fever. He had to rent a room at Jeddah hotel to
keep his family cool.
"The electricity company should be punished
for the continual power outages. I paid SR450 for the room for one
day. I cannot pay that for another day. If I billed the electricity
company for the amount I paid, would they pay it? Of course not, then
they should either provide good services or pay damages next
The main thoroughfares of Jeddah were in chaos.
More than 200 police units were deployed to many locations to organize
traffic. Small businesses suffered the most damages according to many
owners interviewed. Salem Ali Omar, owner of a grocery store in Al-Rawdah
district, said, that the outage caused him huge damage. "I have
suffered enough loses. I am used to power outage in Al-Rawdah for ten
to fifteen minutes, but this time it lasted more than eight
hours." Ice cream in the freezers had to be destroyed and he
frantically searched for ice to keep the chicken and meat in deep
freezer until the power was back on. A group of local Jeddah residents
is planning to file a lawsuit against the electricity company for the
repeated power outages. They complained that the company is making
huge profits but not providing good service to customers.
They say that the telephone number the electricity
company provides to public to call during an emergency is useless. The
consumers demanded that the company be more considerate and at least
have someone pick up the phone and talk to public instead of ignoring
them. One angry Jeddah resident who is preparing to file a lawsuit
against the electricity company in his severe remarks against the
power company says "If I was late paying my bill by one day the
electricity company would not hesitate to cut power off the second I
pass the deadline," he said.
"I wish they were as good in providing a
decent service. If we stated that the personal damage per hour is one
thousand riyals, I swear we would not see power outages in Jeddah. In
foreign countries, officials are held accountable if the power goes
down once. Here it happens many times and yet they are in their
The electricity company issued a statement saying
that the power outage happened due to damage to one of the main power
switchgear units that is connected to the desalination plant. It is
generally believed that the power failure phenomenon exists only in
Pakistan, but reports coming from the Gulf States dispel the
impression which must be a source of strength at least for the KESC
(Inputs from Page sources and courtesy Tehran