GULF VIEW

 

Sep 12 - 18, 2005

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DOLPHIN SIGNS GAS SALES PACT WITH OMAN

Dolphin Energy Limited signed a gas sales agreement with Oman Oil Company (OOC) to deliver an average 200 million standard cubic feet of gas per day (mmscf/day) to OOC from early 2008. Shaikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the UAE and Chairman of Dolphin Energy Limited and Maqbool Ali Sultan, Minister of Commerce and Industry of the Sultanate of Oman and Chairman of Oman Oil Company signed the agreement last week in Abu Dhabi. The agreement is based on detailed discussions between Dolphin Energy and the OOC, subsequent to the signing of a Memorandum of 

Understanding (MOU) for future gas supply on April 20, 2004. A Joint Steering Committee was established under the MOU to determine commencement dates for gas supply, as well as quantities and price. Speaking on this occasion, Shaikh Hamdan said: "With the signing of this agreement, we can all celebrate the creation of a true PGCC gas grid - linking Qatar, the UAE and Oman."

"Dolphin Energy takes pride in its role in this substantial and important Endeavour, and we look forward to supplying the Sultanate with natural gas for a 25 years period," he maintained. Maqbool Ali Sultan, Minister of Commerce and Industry of the Sultanate of Oman and Chairman of Oman Oil Company said: "We are extremely proud to have signed this agreement with Dolphin which we strongly believe further strengthens the existing brotherly ties and enhances economic cooperation between Oman and the UAE."

Dolphin Energy Limited was created to develop substantial energy projects throughout the PGCC. Its objective is to create long-term economic wealth and new business opportunities for PGCC citizens, far into the future. The company's major strategic initiative, the Dolphin Project, involves the production and processing of natural gas from Qatar's North Field, and transportation of dry gas by sub-sea pipeline across joint UAE-Qatari waters to the UAE, beginning in 2006.

Dolphin Energy's first initiative, the Al Ain to Fujairah pipeline, came on stream in January 2004. The pipeline supplies the Fujairah water and power plant on the UAE's east coast - initially with natural gas from Oman, and subsequently with Dolphin gas from Qatar. In May 2005, Dolphin began to supply natural gas to the UAE Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. The gas is being delivered via a tie-in near Qidfa between Dolphin's Al Ain - Fujairah pipeline and the existing Emarat gas pipeline network. The company is owned 51 per cent by Mubadala Development Company, on behalf of the Government of Abu Dhabi - and 24.5 per cent each by Total of France and Occidental Petroleum of the USA.

UAE OFFERS TO INVEST IN IRAN-PAK GAS PIPELINE PROJECT

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has offered to invest in any of the gas pipelines originating either from Iran or Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India. Trans-Asia, a UAE-based company, is prepared to lay down the pipeline to the energy-starved South Asia that would cost $4.2 billion. "The interest in the project has been conveyed to the authorities concerned in Islamabad," said Ali Al-Shamsi, the UAE Ambassador to Pakistan. He said the UAE government would provide complete assistance to the Trans-Asia, a venture of Al Ghurar Group, for achieving the purpose of investment in the field of oil and gas, since the government believes that such strategic projects could greatly help in establishing stability and harmony in the region. "The proposed gas pipelines from Iran and Turkmenistan will have a potential to improve the political atmosphere in the area," he asserted. Ali Muhammad Al-Shamsi, Ambassador of the UAE to Pakistan, who made these remarks, in an interview said the UAE has taken a deliberate decision to make investment in Pakistan in a big way in the backdrop of the long-standing brotherly ties of the two countries. At present, Pakistan is the biggest destination of UAE's foreign investment, he said adding that the UAE understands that investment in Pakistan is secure and the country has no problem with regard to the stability and security. "My country has resolute faith in the vision of Pakistan's leadership that is determined to proceed ahead on the path of progress and prosperity," the ambassador maintained.

The ambassador said the UAE has invested more than $9.5 billion in Pakistan during the last four years and its investment will reach $15 billion by 2007. Major investment has been made in real estate, including housing projects, construction of shopping malls and telecommunication. The amount in real estate investment has surpassed $4 billion and in telecommunication sector it has reached $3 billion. The ambassador mentioned setting up of Lahore sports city with special reference and said that the federal government and especially Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi has provided admirable assistance in the projects of development. The existing boost in the investment took off in March 2004 on the occasion of the visit of Shaikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, to Pakistan who is a very keen friend of this country, the ambassador added. The ambassador said the UAE investment is waiting to come in a big way to Pakistan for the oil and gas sector. He said most sophisticated two German power plants that were installed in Abu Dhabi would be shifted to Karachi soon. The UAE government recently gifted Pakistan two power plants each having 300-megawatt capacity as a gesture of goodwill and brotherly sentiments. The two governments and Wapda, power utility in Pakistan, had already entered into an agreement for the shifting of the plants. The plants would be dismantled first and then reinstalled in Pakistan. The Wapda experts are inspecting the plants so that technical expertise for the shifting could be made available for the purpose, the ambassador said.

IRAN VOWS TO CONTINUE PEACEFUL NUCLEAR PROGRAM

Iran will continue with its atomic program but is ready to satisfy any international concerns, its chief nuclear negotiator said as he held talks with Pakistani leaders.

Ali Larijani's last week visit to Pakistan was part of Tehran's search for regional support for its peaceful nuclear program. "Having said this principle, that we are determined to have nuclear technology, at the same time we are fully prepared to have any negotiation or discussion to remove the international concern," Larijani observed after meeting Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

The top negotiator has already visited India in recent weeks to counter U.S. accusations that Iran is secretly trying to build nuclear weapons. Pakistan in May sent parts from used nuclear centrifuges to the IAEA to allow the agency to compare microscopic traces of uranium on them with those found on devices in Iran.

Last month the IAEA confirmed the particles found at a key nuclear site in Iran were from Pakistani centrifuges, certifying claims by Iran that the nuclear contamination originated from abroad. Pakistan's prime minister said that "every country has the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy" in accordance with IAEA rules. Larijani said he appreciated Pakistan's stand on Iran's nuclear program.

"Both countries have the same view that the regulation and obligation under the IAEA should be the basis for any activities and any judgment on work," he said. "The implementation of regulations should be made without any threat or force," Larijani added. "We do not consider useful any threat for this region."

Iran's new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said late last month that Tehran was finalizing "innovations" to resolve the dispute. Larijani said these new moves would "facilitate work to assure the international community of the peaceful nature of our activities." Larijani was quoted by the Associated Press of Pakistan as saying he had also discussed a proposed multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline linking Iran, Pakistan and India.

The negotiator also met President Pervez Musharraf and held talks with Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri. Tehran-Islamabad ties are very cordial Larijani said that Iran and Pakistan enjoyed very cordial relations. Larijani said that Iran and Pakistan were fully cooperating with each other on regional as well as international issues.

Iran will not back down on developing its own nuclear program, Vladimir Orlov, director of the Russian Political Research Center.

"We should accept the fact that Iran has unambiguously stated its aim to develop its own full-scale peaceful nuclear program," Orlov said at a RIA Novosti press conference. Despite external pressure, Iran will not change its stance, he said. "A carrot and stick policy will merely adjust or speed up this program." The Iranian leadership and public are united in defending the country's nuclear right, he said.

"There is a consensus among the public and a consensus among the elite that in the 21st century, Iran will become the regional superpower, partly based on a technological push toward developing nuclear technology." Iran is not interested in creating its own nuclear bomb, Orlov said. "Iran is now less interested in having a nuclear bomb than it was 20 years ago," and it will be "one step away from building nuclear weapons, but this step will not be taken if it is not forced to take it... We must accept this reality," he said.

Orlov said Russia should maintain its course of developing strategic ties with Iran.

"We must continue the course on strategic cooperation with Iran and develop economic ties with that country as our reliable partner in the region," Orlov remarked.

According to the expert, the efforts of Russian and foreign diplomats could bring about a positive resolution to monitoring Iran's nuclear programs. "We can convince Iran to allow unprecedented control over its nuclear programs, constantly monitoring the dynamics of their development and possible changes in Iran's intentions," he said.

"If (Russia) notice(s) even slight attempts to use peaceful nuclear programs for military purposes, we will stop our cooperation in this area," Orlov added.

"The White House currently has 16 policies regarding Iran, ranging from participation in dialogue to pinpointing strikes against nuclear facilities. This means that the U.S. does not have a reasonable policy regarding this country," Orlov said.

Speaking about the EU-Iran talks on the Iranian nuclear program, he said the U.S. is not applying strong pressure on the European Troika, also known as the Big Three.

He said the U.S. practically removed the issue concerning Russia's participation in the construction of a nuclear power plant (NPP) in Bushehr from its agenda.

"On the contrary, the U.S. and the EU say that Russian-Iranian cooperation on the construction of an NPP in Bushehr is a model for international cooperation and complies with all regulations stipulated by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," Orlov said.

However, he doubts that the U.S. will use force against Iran. For a full-scale operation, the U.S. would need at least 400,000 soldiers that the country doesn't currently have.

A military operation in Iran is impossible under current conditions (because) the Americans will face a more complicated development of the situation than in Iraq," Orlov said. Yakovenko, deputy foreign minister of Russia, said on Monday Moscow sees no reason to transfer the Iranian nuclear file to the UN Security Council.

IRAN 'HEART' OF THE WORLD, SAYS KHATAMI

Former President Mohammad Khatami has said that the best form of government is one based on religious democracy. Attending the 14th official meeting of the third Assembly of Experts, Khatami said any extremist approach towards religion and religious democracy would cause social conflict. Khatami said any success in confronting the extremists would help the country pave the way towards materialization of the 20-year outlook plan.

Iran's self-confidence in taking giant strides and continuing the path towards national stability and security under the most critical junctures are two important messages of the 20-year plan, added Khatami. He said the objectives of 20-year vision plan are lofty but not ambitious. Elsewhere in his remarks, Khatami hailed the country as the "heart" of the world, playing a key role in global economy and security. He praised the country's "proper" infrastructural achievements, saying 100 percent success has been recorded in dam and silo building and 80 percent self-sufficiency in power plant construction.

IRAN IN TALKS FOR GAS EXPORTS

Iran has held negotiations with Austria, Switzerss, and France to export gas to these countries, Rokneddin Javadi, the managing director of National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC) said.

"If the negotiations are finalized, Iran will annually export 5 and 3 million cu. m gas to Austria and Swiss respectively", he said. Negotiations with France are very serious, however, they are yet to reach the final results, he added. Commenting on the latest status quo of Iran's gas export to European countries, he said since Iran did not reach an agreement with Turkey on exporting gas to Europe via this Asian-European state, it held negotiations with Ukraine and another country on the issue. Positive results would be probably gained in this regard and Iran's gas pipeline to Europe would pass through these countries, he anticipated. In regard of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) export, Javadi predicted that 2 million cu. m LNG is exported to Britain and France per annum. He also said that Iran might export LNG to Spain as much as 2.5 million cu. m per year. Javadi said gas export to Afghanistan is at the primary stages.

CONSTRUCTION OF HIGH DAM IN IRANIAN BALOCHISTAN

Minister of Energy Parviz Fattah broke the ground last week for the construction of Galugah and Saradan dams, the giant projects expected to develop part of the disadvantaged Sistan-Baluchestan province. The two dams are to supply irrigation water that is badly needed in the region and to control flash floods there. "Our noble people are our great bonanza, the people who are safeguarding the borders of the Islamic country. Whatever we do for these people is merely doing our duties", noted the new energy minister who is on his first working tour along with a number of senior government and provincial officials. The energy minister referred to the development of Sistan-Baluchestan Province as high on the agenda of the ministry and maintained that, he was satisfied with the ministry's performance in the province in the past and reassured that the path taken by the former officials of the ministry would be followed.

QATAR-KUWAIT GAS PIPELINE

The gas pipeline project which would connect Qatar with Kuwait has been halted for the time being because of difficulties in the Qatari-Saudi relationship, HE the First Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani said yesterday.

Speaking in Jeddah where he was attending a GCC foreign ministers' meeting, HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said there were differences in points of view between the two states but these could be solved by the wisdom of the leaders. He noted that Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed was making "valuable and appreciable" efforts to overcome the differences. Earlier addressing the GCC meeting, Bahrain's top diplomat said the Arab and Islamic identity of Iraq needed to be preserved.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Mubarak al-Khalifah, foreign minister of current GCC president Bahrain, said that Iraq's draft constitution "must respond to the aspirations of all the Iraqi people and safeguard its Arabic-Islamic identity so that Iraq can remain an active member of the Arab and Islamic environment." In an opening speech to the gathering of foreign ministers from Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, Sheikh Mohamed exhorted Iraqis to "work with a spirit of harmony to safeguard the unity, independence and territorial integrity of Iraq and to check the partisans of division and dismemberment of this Arab country that is so dear to us, by exploiting (current) conditions."

The two-day event had been expected to focus on Iraq's future, with a Gulf official saying ahead of the meeting that members "are concerned about the ambiguity surrounding Iraq's Arab and Islamic identity and hope to get some clarifications on this score." GCC states believe "it is necessary to uphold Iraq's Arab and Islamic identity," said Abdulrahman al-Attiyah, secretary general of the organisation, adding that he had been in touch with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa about the issue. Iraq's draft charter, which is to be put to an October 15 referendum, failed to meet demands of the Sunni Arab population for the country to be described as being part of the Arab world, saying instead that "its Arab people are part of the Arab nation." The wording has worried some Arab governments in the region. The Saudi cabinet last week appealed for the constitution to "respond to the aspirations of the Iraqi people, to enshrine national unity and safeguard its Arab and Islamic identity.

CAIRO THEATRE FIRE CLAIMS 32 LIVES

At least 32 people perished in a fire in an Egyptian theatre apparently set off by lighted candles used on stage, with the blaze provoking a deadly stampede as burning spectators tried desperately to flee. Flames swept through the theatre in the town of Beni Suef on the banks of the Nile south of Cairo late on Monday last in the deadliest inferno Egypt has witnessed in years. Footage aired by Egyptian public television showed a man - his face distorted by pain and the flesh on his arms torn off by the flames - throwing him to the ground and struggling to rip off his burning clothes.

Actors and journalists were among the victims, sending shock waves through the country's artistic community. Hospital sources told the official Mena news agency that some of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition while 12 of the 37 wounded were in serious condition and some had to be evacuated to the capital for treatment. Witnesses quoted by the Egyptian press said it took firefighters more than two hours to put out the fire, which started at about 11.30pm, reducing much of the theatre to ashes and also destroying palm trees nearby. One witness told the state-owned Al-Akhbar newspaper that the fire transformed the theatre into "hell."

The blaze apparently started when lighted candles used by the actors set fire to the stage curtains, Mena reported. It spread rapidly, fuelled by combustible items that were part of the set's decor, including paper and wood, sending flames and vast plumes of smoke high into the air. It provoked panic among the crowd as theatre-goers attempted to escape the blaze, with many of the victims believed to have been trampled underfoot. "There were also deaths due to asphyxiation," said Anas Gaafar, governor of Beni Suef which lies about 150km south of Cairo. Health Minister Mohamed Awad Tag Eddin, who visited the site and victims in hospital, said 18 of those injured suffered burns exceeding 60%. "These are the cases we consider critical." Safety regulations in public places are rarely enforced in Egypt and television footage showed a man using a just a small fire extinguisher to battle the flames. The performance of the play Zoo was part of an experimental theatre festival that brought together actors from across Egypt. Interior ministry sources said the dead included three actors, three students from an arts academy and three journalists, two of them from state-owned newspapers and one from the opposition Al-Wafd daily. "Egyptian theatre will take a long time to recover from this tragedy," playwright Nasser Abdel Moneim said. Judicial sources said an investigation had been launched. The oasis town of Fayyum was hit hardest by the tragedy, with 14 of the dead from the area, including playwright Salah Hamid Madhi who lost his life along with his son while another son and a daughter suffered serious injuries. Culture Minister Faruq Hosni vowed to rebuild the theatre during a tour of the devastated site, but blamed its administrators for the disaster, saying: "All theatres in Egypt were warned not to use real fire on the stage."

CRACKDOWN ON PIRACY

National companies and local dealers are coming close to agreement to establish a company that will monitor the market for counterfeit products, Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper reported. The company will detect violating factories and stores that sell and make counterfeit products and take proceedings against them through the courts. This step came after the sharp rise in sales of fake products that harm the companies that make the original products and agents that sell them, in the local market.