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Last updated: Friday 23 Dec, 2005-12.30 P.M (PST)

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KARACHI
Today 12 26 38 Sunny
Tomorrow 11 27 38 Sunny
Day after 11 28 38 Sunny
LAHORE
Today 1 20 87 Sunny
Tomorrow 2 20 87 Sunny
Day after 2 21 87 Sunny
ISLAMABAD
Today 0 18 59 Sunny
Tomorrow 0 18 59 Sunny
Day after 0 21 59 Sunny
HUM%: Humidity In %
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updated: Fri - Sun 23-25 Dec, 2005

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KARACHI         - 021 LAHORE          - 042 ISLAMABAD    - 051 FAISALABAD   - 041 MULTAN          - 061 PESHAWAR    - 0521 CANADA          - 1 KUWAIT           - 965 INDIA               - 91 IRAN                - 98 U.K                   - 44 U.A.E                - 971 U.S.A                - 1

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  REPORTS FROM GULF & MIDDLE EAST
 
 
 

 

 

Oct 10 - 16, 2005

RAMAZAN PREPARATIONS IN S. ARABIA

Across Saudi Arabia, preparations have been made for Ramazan, with Imams, Muazzins and hundreds of laborers and dozens of crews making sure that mosques are ready to receive the faithful that will make them their second homes over the coming holy month. The Department of Mosques has directed that arrangements be made for all the mosques to accommodate the additional rush of worshippers during Ramazan.

Mosque officials have been instructed to keep the mosques tidy and ensure adequate supplies of power and water during the holy month to meet the requirements of the increased number of Muslims who go for Taraweeh, which follows the regular Isha prayers. Midnight prayers, (Qiyamul Layl) will be conducted from 1 a.m. from the 20th day of Ramazan until the end of the holy month.

Mosque maintenance crews have been asked to be on duty at nights to guarantee continuous water and power supply to all the places of worship. It's a big job. The department maintains nearly 1,000 mosques in Riyadh alone. In remote areas, some mosques were constructed by philanthropists who also provide for their maintenance.

Partitions for women are being built inside mosques lacking separate prayer halls for both sexes. Some of the mosques are busy replacing old carpets with new ones while others are being renovated to give them a fresh facelift during the holy month. "Everyone likes to come to the mosques for prayers during the holy month; therefore, we expect a larger congregation for Taraweeh prayers," said Abdul Aziz, Imam in a mosque in Nasseriyah, Riyadh. He added that the holy month not only affords a good opportunity for Muslims to greet one another but also to perform good deeds that will be richly rewarded by God.

"We are making every effort to give the worshippers a conducive environment to offer their prayers at the mosque with serenity and sanctity," the Imam said. Tents are being constructed adjacent to the mosques to enable worshippers to break their fast during the month. Arrangements have been made for all those who come for Maghrib prayers during Ramazan to have their breakfast in these cozy tents. Refreshments for Iftar are provided either by the mosques or by area donors.

A maintenance contractor who looks after mosques in the Aziziya district said that his company has instructed its labor force to work at the mosques late into the night during the month. "These laborers are expected to keep the places of worship neat and tidy, ensure a reliable supply of water and power and illuminate them," the contractor said.

FTA BETWEEN OMAN AND THE US

The United States and Oman yesterday announced that they had reached a free trade agreement. "This is a high-quality, comprehensive free trade agreement that will contribute to economic growth and trade between both countries," said US Trade Representative Rob Portman.

The US has now negotiated free trade agreements with five countries in the Middle East. Three of these, including the one with Oman, are awaiting congressional approval.

President George W Bush has called for the creation of a Middle East Free Trade Area by 2013, and Portman said the agreement with Oman is an important step in the process

FROM METHANOL TO PROPYLENE

For the first time ever in the world, an Iranian company, Fanavaran Petrochemical Complex, in cooperation with a German company, Lurgi will change methanol to propylene, Jalil Ebrahimpur, the managing director of Fanavaran complex said..

The contract on principled engineering of the project to convert methanol into propylene has been finalized and it will be put on tender within the next three or four months to choose the contractor, he explained. He put the construction costs of the unit at 115 million euros, stating converting methanol into propylene or vise versa is being carried out for the first time in the world.

Fanavaran Petrochemical Complex and German Lurgi will hold 50 percent share each in the project, he further stated. Ebrahimpur predicted that the unit would start production in the next four years. Also in his remarks, the managing director announced that the carbon monoxide unit of Fanavaran with the production capacity of 140,000 tons would be soon commissioned. He further declared that the complex's acetic acid unit with a capacity of 150,000 tons would launch production before March 20, 2006.

In conclusion, Ebrahimpur named establishment of methyl STAT monomer unit, at the cost of 130 million euros, as the future plan of Fanavaran Petrochemical Complex.

KUWAIT

Kuwait Finance House, Bahrain (KFH-Bahrain), a leading provider of Islamic commercial and investment banking services, announced plans for the establishment of a state-of-the-art industrial park in Bahrain to be known as the KFH Industrial Oasis following a meeting between Abdulhakeem Alkhayyat, general manager of KFH-Bahrain and Minister of Industry and Commerce Dr. Hassan Abdullah Fakhro.

The meeting was attended by Osama Alkhaja, head of corporate finance at KFH-Bahrain and Nader Al-Moayyed, undersecretary at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. The project, a first of its kind in Bahrain, is aimed at driving further economic diversification in the industrial sector, generating greater inward investment and stimulating job creation in Bahrain by capitalizing on the ongoing expansion in the industrial sector and fast growing demand for industrial based real-estate projects in Bahrain.

KFH Industrial Oasis will comprise of 155,000 sqm2 of land to be located within the Bahrain International Investment Park (BIIP), a newly established area located in the Hidd industrial zone, which focuses on the technology, manufacturing and service sectors and has been designed to attract investors with value added activities. BIIP covers over 250 hectares with 25.5km of readily equipped infrastructure such as roads, street lighting, sewage systems, landscaping and desalination systems.

Initial investments to be undertaken by KFH-Bahrain will be about $25 million for the development of the necessary infrastructure, which upon completion will be sublet to potential local and international tenants. Target companies include a broad range of businesses from those in the region to Fortune 500 companies and other international firms engaged in manufacturing and service-oriented industries.

TOYOTA

Toyota and its sole distributor in Qatar, Abdullah Abdulghani and Brothers, yesterday launched Yaris, an all new hatchback. The 1.3-litre VVT-I (variable valve timing intelligent) engine gives the vehicle a class-leading power and acceleration, AAB general manager Dr Mohamed Abdullah al-Dorani, told a press conference. "Yaris has enormous appeal for trend-setting owners who demand a vehicle that expresses their personality and lifestyle without compromising style, quality and handling," the general manager said.

The vehicle, which is already popular in Europe, will be sold in Qatar at prices ranging from QR44,000 to QR51,000. The exterior of the new low budget vehicle is designed with a powerful form and unique body proportions, which portrays sophistication and quality beyond its class with driving-oriented styling, he said.

The interior is both roomy and sporty, Dr Dorani said. There is a surprisingly large cargo area. The rear seats are equipped with slide and tilt down mechanism that provide various seat arrangements and large cargo space.

The removable deck box can also be used to stow small items. Yaris is designed with superior comport which is achieved with a newly developed next generation air conditioning unit and uniquely designed front and rear seats that provide comfort that surpasses other vehicles in its class, he added. Toyota is committed in providing world class products and "we at AAB are equally committed to support these exciting models with the best after sales services".

From the beginning of the year, the company has launched many "outstanding models" like Lexus GS300/430, Toyota Avalon, Hiace buses and vans, followed by the Fortuner, Innova and Hilux last month. "With the introduction of the new Yaris, we are catering to yet another segment of youngsters who have been waiting for a compact car of dynamic styling from Toyota, he said. There would be a lot more new launches next year, he said.

The press conference was attended also by marketing division manager Sushil Sindhakar, and Toyota sales manager Hisham Ismail. In the evening, the vehicle was launched at a glittering function in the presence of a number of dignitaries.

$100mn 'SUKUK'

Three Qatari banks were in a consortium that closed the $100mn Al Musharaka Sukuk for the Kuwait-based Investment Dar Company in Bahrain last week. They are QNB Al Islamic (senior lead manager), Commercial-bank Al Safa Islamic and Doha Bank (co-managers). A release issued by Arab Banking Corporation, whose Islamic banking division was the mandated lead manager to the issue, said the Sukuk placement received strong support from the market. The deal was closed at the Gulf Convention Centre at Bahrainís Gulf Hotel At the signing ceremony, Adnan al-Musallam, chairman and managing Director of The Investment Dar Company commented on the outstanding performance of the company and thanked the investors for their support and the teams of both organisations who worked on this financing.

LIBYA

ExxonMobil Corp, BP Plc and Chevron Corp are among at least 49 companies that registered to bid for exploration rights in Libya, as the north African country steps up efforts to develop Africa's largest crude-oil reserves.

National Oil Corp, Libya's state-owned energy company, issued badges yesterday for representatives of 49 companies to attend the country's second auction since oil was discovered in 1959, at 5pm local time in Tripoli. Libya will offer permits to search for oil and gas in 26 onshore and offshore plots covering about 100,000sq km (38,600sq miles), nearly the size of Cuba. The government of Moammar Gaddafi, Libya's leader since 1969, seeks to attract $30bn of investment to raise production this decade to 3mn bpd, from 1.7mn now. Libya is the eighth-largest oil producer of the 11-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. "Libya remains one of the most attractive areas in the world to explore in," said Craig McMahon, analyst at energy consultants Wood Mackenzie, in a telephone interview from Edinburgh. "Capital and operating expenditures are low."

Nineteen of the plots offered are in areas already producing oil such as Sirte, in the centre of the country; Ghadames, in the west; and Murzuq, in the south-west. The others are in Cyrenaica and Kufra, in the east. "We see about 20 good blocks here," said Stuart Wilcox, commercial adviser for Santos Ltd, one of three Australian companies registered to bid, in an interview in Tripoli. The auction comes amid surging oil prices. Rising demand worldwide pushed crude-oil prices to a record of more than $70 a barrel on August 30. Companies registered for yesterday's auction include eight from the US, 14 from Europe and 14 from Asia. Another five companies registered from the former Soviet Union, three from Australia, two from Canada, two from South America and one from Africa.

The total number of participants may be larger, as companies not represented may be part of bidding consortiums. A total of 62 companies had asked for bidding packages, National Oil said. Libya has been increasing efforts to woo international companies since the US eased sanctions last year, which had been imposed in 1986 when the country was accused of supporting terrorism. Removing the sanctions allowed US oil companies to return to Libya. In January, Occidental Petroleum Corp, Chevron and Amerada Hess Corp won alone or with others 11 of the 15 permits auctioned, in the first bidding round since oil was discovered in Libya 46 years ago. Until then, the nation awarded blocks after talks with companies.

"It will be at least as competitive this time," said Akira Kato, head of the London office at Japan's Teikoku Oil Co, which didn't take any of the plots in January. "Weíll be more aggressive this time.íí About 60 companies bid in the first auction, offering Libya's government 61.1 to 89.2% of any production and paying $133mn in signing bonuses."

Libya, a country slightly larger than Alaska, has proven crude-oil reserves of 39bn barrels, equivalent to more than five years of US consumption. Libyan Energy Secretary Fathi Ben Shatwan told Bloomberg on September 19 that potential reserves may top 100bn barrels as only 30% of the territory is covered by agreements with oil companies.

Gaddafi told a political rally two days ago in Sirte that having good ties with the US was in Libya's interest. "Dealing with the US is not about sentiment, itís based on mutual interests," he said in a speech broadcast on television. "The US, especially its oil companies, need Libya, and Libya needs the US."

The US began lifting the sanctions gradually after Libya agreed in 2003 to pay $2.7bn to the families of those killed in the 1988 bombing of a Pan American jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, and to end programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. Libya will hold four auctions in 2006 and 2007, offering exploration permits in 261 plots, National Oil Corp's head of planning, Tarek Hassan-Beck, told the World Petroleum Congress on September 26 in Johannesburg. US companies that registered delegates yesterday are Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Occidental, Marathon Oil Corp, Hess, Anadarko Petroleum Corp and Pioneer Natural Resources Co.

European companies include BP, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Eni Spa, Statoil ASA, Norsk Hydro ASA, Repsol YPF SA, RWE-DEA AG, BG Group Plc, Gaz de France, Wintershall AG, OMV AG and Hellenic Petroleum SA. No European companies won a permit in Libya's first auction. Other applications include Canada's Petro-Canada and Verenex Energy Inc, Australia's Santos, Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Oil Search Ltd, Russia's Gazprom, Lukoil, Tatneft and Itera Holding Ltd, and Ukraine's NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy. The largest oil companies from India and China -Oil and Natural Gas Corp and China National Petroleum Corp - were among Asian companies to register. Malaysiaís state-oil group Petroliam Nasional Bhd and Indonesiaís PT Pertamina also applied. Asian bidders also include Japanís two biggest oil explorers, Inpex Corp and Japan Petroleum Exploration Corp.

Naveed Khan, ABC Islamic Bank managing director said, "This marks the culmination of a very successful transaction and is the result of some serious effort put in by everyone over the summer.

"This is a debut issue for The Investment Dar and it speaks volumes for the company and the quality of its management. The ceremony is our way of saying thank you to the company for entrusting us with this task, and to all the investors for making this a landmark transaction."

ECONOMIC FORUM

The first World Islamic Economic Forum called for the establishment of an Islamic common market and floated a series of initiatives to boost business cooperation amongst Muslim nations. A declaration issued at the end of a three-day meeting listed the initiatives and urged the 57 governments of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to facilitate trade and business environments.

Delegates called for governments to "consider the establishment of an Islamic Free Trade Agreement through regional and sub-regional FTAs in a step-by-step, time-bound process that would ultimately lead to an Islamic Common Market," said the declaration.

The forum, which had debated poverty alleviation in Muslim countries, called for the creation of a World Islamic Economic Development Corporation to promote investment and infrastructure development projects in OIC countries.

It also floated plans for a global Islamic businesswomen's network and an education trust to be funded by Muslim entrepreneurs emphasizing science and information technology arenas. The forum pledged to "establish relevant task forces each led by a prominent Islamic business leader to develop specific practical implementation plans" for the initiatives. The declaration was delivered to Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, also the current chairman of the OIC. The forum, which gathered over 500 delegates from 44 countries including government officials and business leaders, was billed as the Davos of the Muslim world, after the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The concept of a World Islamic Economic Forum emerged from an OIC meeting of business leaders held here in 2004. Delegates agreed to make the forum an annual event, with the next meeting slated for 2006 in Pakistan, to be alternated with Malaysia.

Forum organizers include Malaysia's foreign affairs ministry, Pakistan's Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Morocco's Islamic Center for Development and Trade and Malaysian think tank the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute.

IRAN'S FOREIGN POLICY

Iran's foreign policies have a principled stability, so the government acts within the same framework, Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said. †In a meeting with Swiss Ambassador Philippe Welti, he stated that Iran is determined to develop its nuclear expertise and to possess the nuclear fuel cycle, adding that Iran would not accept being dependent on other countries for nuclear fuel.

The Islamic Republic of Iran voluntarily suspended uranium enrichment to prove its goodwill to the world, but, unfortunately, the nuclear negotiation partners proved that they were actually seeking to violate Iranís inalienable nuclear rights, Rafsanjani noted.

On the crisis in the neighboring country, he said that the Islamic Republic of Iran is working for peace and freedom in Iraq and respects its territorial integrity, adding that the military occupation of the country must be ended.

In conclusion, Rafsanjani stated that Iran has only offered the Lebanese and Palestinian people intellectual and humanitarian support, saying that Iran defends the Palestiniansí rights in its policies as well. †For his part, the Swiss ambassador called bilateral relations between Iran and Switzerland satisfactory and said that the Swiss government was making serious efforts to improve technical and trade cooperation between the two countries. †On Iranís right to possess the complete nuclear fuel cycle, Welti stated that bilateral confidence is a matter of great significance for both sides, adding that misunderstandings should be resolved.

IRAQ PM'S TERMINATION CALL REJECTED

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani rejected on Monday a call by his party's official spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari to be sacked, saying the country needed stability ahead of a key referendum and an election. "We don't think this is the time to change the government now," Talabani, a Kurd, told a news conference in Prague after talks with Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Earlier Azad Jandayani, official spokesman of Talibani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, told Al Jazeera television that the coalition of Kurds and Shiites which dominates the government should meet to sack Jaafari, a Shiite Islamist.

But Jandayani later told Reuters he had not been speaking to Al Jazeera in his official capacity. "This is my personal point of view. I do not represent the party in this, and I stand by my own point of view," he said.

Iraq is due to hold a referendum on a new constitution on Oct. 15, followed by a parliamentary election in December. Talabani, a Kurd, said the present government should remain in place until they were over. "This coalition government must respect the agreements signed by both sides," he said, adding that he believed the referendum would go smoothly and the constitution would come into force. The U.S.-backed government is dominated by Kurds and Shiites at the expense of the once dominant Sunni Arab minority, which fears that if the constitution is approved at the referendum they will be marginalized even further.

Jaafari, a Shiite, and Talabani have long had serious differences. Last week Jaafari dismissed accusations by Talabani that he was monopolizing power as the government tried to promote unity ahead of the referendum. After the referendum, which is widely expected to ratify the constitution, December's election is likely to see a reshuffling of the balance of forces in the ruling coalition.

MORE VEHICLES HIT QATAR ROADS

Some 48,000 new vehicles have hit Qatari roads so far this year and about 65,000 new drivers have joined the country's burgeoning number of motorists during the same period. They as well as the road projects currently underway in Doha have all contributed to the traffic jams witnessed in the capital city in the last few days, Director of the Traffic and Patrol Department, Col Mohamed Saad al-Kharji, said. Talking to reporters after signing a contract with TRL, a UK-based transport research laboratory, to conduct studies on car accidents in Qatar, he said that his department would benefit from the expertise of the British on tackling road accidents. Petroleum major ExxonMobil is sponsoring the TRL survey. The Minister of State for Interior affairs, HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani, was present at the agreement signing ceremony. Col al-Kharji said the National Campaign for Fighting Car Accidents had ìstarted to produce results, as there was only one case of death in a car accident during the last week. The first phase of the study will last three months during which it will evaluate the general reasons for car accidents in Qatar and the best ways to create awareness about safe driving among motorists, said the official.

 
 

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