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Tomorrow 11 27 38 Sunny
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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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Oct 17 - 23, 2005

EARTHQUAKE: SAUDI FUND-RAISING CAMPAIGN GETS GOOD RESPONSE

The call from Custodian of the two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for a Kingdom-wide to support the victims of a massive earthquake that has killed more than 35,000 people in Pakistan and India, got a good response from citizens and expatriates. King Abdullah gave his order during a Cabinet meeting on Monday. "The king has issued his directives to launch a fund-raising campaign throughout the Kingdom so as to enable all people to express their sympathy and support to the victims of the disaster," said Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani.

King Abdullah said Saudi Arabia would stand by Pakistan and India and their peoples and ordered the dispatch of medical and relief teams to both countries. The first relief plane left Riyadh on Sunday with 70 tons of food supplies, tents, floor mats, blankets, along with medicines and medical necessities. The Saudi Red Crescent Society (RCS) has begun an air bridge of planes from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan in order to provide assistance. A team of doctors from the Ministry of Health and RCS went to the region two days ago to assess and determine the areas in greatest need of a field emergency hospital.

"The air bridge was arranged yesterday carrying medical supplies and a complete medical team to establish a field hospital as well as a large number of relief and health workers to provide medical and relief assistance," said Dr. Saleh Al-Tuwaijri, deputy director of RCS. The Saudi RCS is also coordinating, through the Saudi Embassy in Pakistan, its efforts with other relief organizations such as the World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). "The Saudi RCS is providing medications and consumables as well as establishing a complete field hospital and supplying the local Pakistani hospitals and health care centers with what they need," said Al-Tuwaijri. The ICRC has set up a South Asia Earthquake website (http://icrc.org/home.nsf/home/webfamilylinks) to help people exchange information about family members in the disaster zone. Those in the affected areas can register on the site to inform their families that they are safe and well, either directly or with the help of the Red Cross/Red Crescent staff. People seeking news of relatives can consult the list of those who have registered and search for names. The site is in English. Information from the website will be made available locally on lists posted in public places or broadcast on radio for people without access to the Internet. For Siddik Khan, a driver working for a Saudi family in Jeddah, the website means hope for him to find out what happened to his family. "I have not been able to contact any of my family or friends to let me know that my wife and children are alive," he said. His employer added, "He has been like a wild man since the earthquake trying to contact anyone there. His brother in Kuwait told him that all their houses had been destroyed and his family was in a tent but at least they're alive except for a sister who has not been found yet."

The family is arranging to send him back to arrange for accommodation for his family. He wants to travel there as soon as he can. The Islamic Development Bank has allocated $11.8 million for aid. Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Ali, president of the bank, said that $1.6 million was a grant to provide immediate relief supplies and $10.2 million was a loan to help rebuild vital institutions there. The International Islamic Relief Organization is also launching an immediate relief campaign and has allocated SR1 million for providing food, water, clothes and other needs. It called on benefactors to donate through its offices in the Kingdom and its bank account 31900010777023 at Al-Rajhi and a second bank account 10477702000102 at National Commercial Bank. "People here want to help but don't know how and I'm glad that the king and so many organizations are launching these fund-raising campaigns," said Dr. Asma Siddiki of Effat College. "Saudis are not good at promoting their relief efforts; they do it quietly which is the Islamic way, and the Western media rarely report what we do," she said. The Pakistani Embassy has been overwhelmed with donations of food and clothing.

Dr. Saleh Al-Wohaibi, secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), expressed condolences to the country's Ambassador Abdul Aziz Mirza in Riyadh. In a letter addressed to the ambassador, Dr. Wohaibi said the disaster had shocked the entire world and the Muslim world would pray for victims. "We are urgently in need of medicines, tents, blankets and tinned foods," said Manzar Hafiz Mian, community welfare officer at the Pakistan Embassy. Donations in kind or cash can be handed over to the embassy in Riyadh and donors will receive a receipt for their contributions from the mission. Mian said that media publicity would no doubt generate an even greater response.

Mohammed Raza Otho, head of chancery at the embassy, said that the mission was working round the clock to coordinate efforts with community members. "Although, we have not made any requests for donations from non-Pakistanis, it was heartening to note that other philanthropists came forward to support this worthy cause," Otho noted. He said one philanthropist had sent SR50,000.The Pakistan Cultural Group in Riyadh has set up a team to collect donations. Sri Lankan Expatriates Society (SLES) in Riyadh has requested its members to assist the victims. SLES President A.S.M. Illyas said that the goods collected would be handed over to the Pakistani Embassy in Riyadh. The Pakistani mission has set up collection centers in major towns. The Pakistani International School is collecting relief materials. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has agreed to deliver the material to the affected areas.

LNG

The world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), Indonesia is understood to have decided to buy LNG from Oman meet its export commitments and to supply liquefied natural gas to fertilizer plants in its northwestern Aceh province. Qouting informed sources, Times of Oman said Indonesia is keen to pick more than 100,000 cubic meters of LNG from Oman by the end of 2005, followed by another consignment early next year.

SECONDARY MARKET

The Council of Ministers has instructed authorities to establish a secondary market for government bonds and demanded greater financial transparency from public departments. The Cabinet, chaired by Custodian of the two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, also called for strengthening the Saudi stock market and setting up a regulatory system for real estate mortgages.

Saudi bankers welcomed the move to establish a market for government bonds but said the Kingdom has issued no new bonds in the last four months. "The fact they are endorsing a secondary market is great, but without supply it will be difficult," the Reuters quoted one banker as saying. Another banker said the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) had already had talks with several banks about setting up a "primary dealership" involving three or four banks, which would buy bonds from SAMA and sell to other institutions. Addressing the Cabinet meeting, King Abdullah said Saudi Arabia, which economists predict is set to beat last year's budget surplus of SR107 billion ($28.5 billion), would continue to use part of the extra revenue to pay down public debt, SPA said. The Kingdom has slashed debt as a proportion of GDP from 119 percent five years ago to under two-thirds last year. It is now estimated at nearly SR600 billion. Saudi Arabia is trying to open up and diversify its oil-dominated economy and give the private sector a greater role in driving growth. In a series of economic decisions taken yesterday, the Cabinet also urged all government agencies to cooperate with the General Statistics Department by regularly providing it with their economic statements. "The concerned authorities should ensure greater transparency while preparing the aforesaid statements," Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani said after the meeting.

King Abdullah highlighted the Kingdom's economic achievements during 2004 as a result of sound economic policies and positive oil market developments. The Kingdom's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 5.3 percent last year. Saudi Arabia has introduced a series of political and economic reforms in recent years as part of efforts to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the end of this year. The Cabinet also authorized the minister of transport to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart to work out an agreement for cooperation in the field of shipping.

The meeting assigned the governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) to sign an agreement with Switzerland for investment promotion and protection. The Cabinet appointed Mohammed ibn Omar Al-Eisae as a member of the board of directors of the Supreme Commission for Tourism replacing Adel Fakeeh. It appointed Fahd ibn Mohammed Al-Jubeir assistant undersecretary for technical affairs at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, and Mohammed ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Mutlaq minister plenipotentiary at the Foreign Ministry. It also authorized the secretary-general of King Abdul Aziz Center to conduct talks with Iran to prepare a memorandum of understanding with the Center of Archives and Research Services at the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

IRAN-IRAQ

According to the document inked by Iran's Minister of Industries and Mines Ali-Reza Tahmasbi and Iraq's Minister of Transport Salam Oudeh al-Malki, the two sides are committed to follow up the items indicated in the memoranda of understanding signed during the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari to Iran and their executive strategies. The matters of concern are to be dealt with within the framework of four joint committees in charge of political, industrial and mines, economic affairs and finance as well as energy. Both parties to the Industries and Mines Commission are committed to indicate the strategies required to implement the seven projects on which mutual agreement was reached in early summer of 2005.

During the ceremony, Tahmasbi assessed the signed communique´ and MOUs on industrial and mine cooperation as positive and said that they would determine the future collaboration trend between the two countries. He hoped that more meetings will be held in future, given that such exchanges could play a crucial role in expansion of multifaceted relations. For his part, al-Malki referred to the close bilateral ties and said that the MOU signed at the joint economic commission meeting marks the actual relations between the two Muslim states. He hoped that the inked documents would be a step towards more solid ties between Iran and Iraq.

Turning to the signed agreements as a significant achievement for both sides, he noted, "The grounds for implementation of these documents are expected to be prepared during the coming month." During the session, another MOU on industrial and mining collaboration was signed by the two ministers.

NUCLEAR ISSUE: IRAN FEELS EU MADE A MISTAKE

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Deputy Director Mohammad Saeedi believes that the European Union has made some mistakes in dealing with Iran's nuclear issue, especially its call for Tehran to scrap its nuclear fuel cycle program.

It would be another great mistake if the EU made efforts to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, because the EU would be the biggest loser in such a turn of events, ISNA quoted him as saying here. According to some accurate domestic and Western opinion polls, over 80 percent of the Iranian people believe that the country should not give up its nuclear technology, the AEOI deputy director for planning and international affairs added.

Saeedi believes that the fifth article of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governor's recent resolution on Iran's nuclear program is the most significant part of the document, and that the other articles are meant to pressure Iran to resume negotiations.

He also said that by refusing to relinquish nuclear technology and acquiring other modern technology, Iran can also prevent the brain drain. Elaborating on what happened in the recent session of the Board of Governors, Saeedi said that Russia, China, and most Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member countries realized their influence at the IAEA Board, adding that they will definitely oppose any decision against Iran at future board sessions. He also said that he was optimistic that satisfactory progress would be made in the process of resolving other disputes between Iran and IAEA by November. Both Iran and the EU3 expressed their desire to resume nuclear negotiations, but Iran will not accept any preconditions for the talks and what the Europeans have proposed as a prerequisite for the continuation of talks is not acceptable, Saeedi added.

AHMADINEJAD'S NUCLEAR INITIATIVE

Elsewhere in his remarks, Saeedi said that the AEOI is formulating a plan in line with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's nuclear initiative to resolve Iran's latest nuclear standoff with the West. He went on to say that the legal supervision is the most reliable kind of supervision, nowadays, but the most recent proposals call for proprietary supervision over Iran's nuclear installations, which actually goes beyond the previous technical and legal supervisions. With implementation of Ahmadinejad's nuclear initiative, which calls for the participation of Western companies in Iran's uranium enrichment activities, there would be no possibility whatsoever for Iran to divert from peaceful nuclear activities because Western companies would be Iran's partners in production, the nuclear official noted.

Saeedi pointed out that the West was still unaware of the details of Ahmadinejad's nuclear plan to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear dossier through technical, legal, and effective monitoring of nuclear activities. According to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the IAEA Charter, and the Safeguards Agreement, the first paragraph of the recent resolution was legally null and void, he added.

Rejecting the use of the term "non-compliance" in the resolution, Saeedi said that according to four internationally accepted documents -- i.e. the NPT, IAEA Charter, the additional protocol to the NPT, and the Safeguards Agreement, Iran has always kept its commitment, and so Iran's claim that it has been compliant to commitments can be legally investigated.

RESOLUTION INTENDED TO PRESS IRAN

Saeedi, who is a member of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team, said, "What happened in the recent session of the Board of Governors can be discussed from different points of view. It first of all created some differences between the members of the European Union. During the session, a number of countries realized that some countries were imposing new regulations on the IAEA.

"On the other hand, the rejection of the illegal demands of some European countries led to the creation of disagreements between three groups on the IAEA Board. The first group wanted to settle the dispute over Iran's nuclear dossier through negotiation. The second group, which included China and Russia, claimed that the IAEA had sufficient opportunities to investigate Iran's dossier, and the third group consisted of the NAM member countries, among whom it seems a new change had occurred," Saeedi added.

EU, NOT IRAN, BROKE OFF NUCLEAR TALKS

Elsewhere in his remarks, Saeedi said that Iran never broke off the nuclear talks with EU3, noting that it was Europe that broke off the negotiations. He also said that Iran sought negotiations in which rights are respected and which are held within a specific period of time. Saeedi also noted, "Just as Europe expects Iran to be faithful to its nuclear commitments, Iran also expects Europe to recognize Iran's international rights, so that the way would be paved for negotiation." He stated that several European countries want to see the dispute over Iran's nuclear dossier resolved through negotiations and seek to convince the other European counties that prefer other methods.

THREAT TO UN SECURITY COUNCIL EU'S SECOND MISTAKE

He also said that the EU made a mistake, when it assumed that Iran would agree to give up the nuclear fuel cycle in exchange for economic, technical, political, and security incentives. "However, they realized their mistake in Paris, and so they corrected their mistake in their August proposal. Nevertheless, they made another mistake since they did not recognize Iran's right to possess the nuclear fuel cycle," he explained. Saeedi warned that the EU's would be making another mistake if it sought to refer Iran's nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council. - National consensus, a forte in Iran's cooperation with the world. He stated that the national nuclear consensus is a forte and a great support for Iran in its dealings with the West on its nuclear dossier, adding that according to a number of domestic and foreign opinion polls, over 80 percent of Iranians believe the country should possess nuclear technology. He noted that the recent national consensus on the nuclear dossier was unique.

Nuclear technology was one of the government's concerns during when Mir-Hossein Musavi was prime minister, it also became a prime concern of the Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani administration, and, finally, a national plan was formulated during the Mohammad Khatami administration to develop civilian nuclear technology, so, the necessary budgets were allocated for this objective, he added. Iran made great progress in the field of nuclear technology during the Khatami administration and Iran's nuclear program was a national plan which was initiated some seven years before the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Saeedi underlined.

IRANIAN PISTACHIO

Central Valley pistachio growers hope to retain the high wall that's deterred Iranian competition for the past two decades. "We've seen some numbers that are very scary," Karen Reinecke, President of the Fresno-based California Pistachio Commission, said. "Today, Reinecke and four valley growers are planting their arguments with the International Trade Commission. The Californians want to convince the commission that lowering the high tariff on Iranian raw pistachios would bite U.S. producers." Iran leads the world in pistachio production, and its orchards outpace California's 130,000 acres. Iranian prices are correspondingly lower.

Since 1986, though, an anti-dumping order has shackled potential Iranian imports with a tariff that's hovered as high as roughly 300 percent. That's shielded U.S. producers, who now account for nearly all the raw in-shell pistachios gobbled up in this country. It's also contributed to a tripling of the U.S. pistachio acreage over the past 20 years. American growers, the vast majority of whom work between Kern and Madera counties, fear a return to the old days when Iran commanded nearly half of the U.S. market. "It's a significant threat to the industry," Reinecke said. "We don't think (the Iranian imports) would be an add-on. We think it would replace our market."

A trade commission staff report predicts that pistachio consumption is likely to rise if prices fall. The commission staffers noted that large U.S. pistachios sold wholesale for more than $1.85 per pound in 2003, compared to the $1.67 per pound that Iranian pistachios sold for in Canada. It's an open question, though, whether retailers and importers or consumers would reap the greatest benefit from lower Iranian prices. The high tariffs have remained in place despite the Clinton administration lifting in 2000 the embargo on pistachios and Persian rugs. With the embargo lifted, officials this year began a formal review of the antidumping tariffs imposed in 1986. The six-member International Trade Commission must figure out by December whether the U.S. industry would suffer a "material injury" from resumption of the Iranian trade. The commissioners will examine the anticipated volume of Iranian imports if duties were lifted, as well as the likely impact on prices.

Reinecke and the growers spent Monday honing their arguments, with each preparing to present part of the story today. No one had arranged to testify on Iran's behalf, and because diplomatic relations don't exist, Iran does not maintain an embassy in the United States. As a bipartisan and independent agency, the trade commission is not bound by White House policy. Still, everyone is aware that the pistachio dispute is taking place amid the Bush administration's hostile policies against Iran. "Iran," Reinecke said, "does have a certain reputation [for its pistachios]."

SOLAR POWER'S POTENTIAL UNDERSCORED

In a study released in Egypt to underscore the potential of solar power, the environmentalist group Greenpeace said the sun could provide electricity to 100mn people in the sunniest parts of the world by the year 2025.

Greenpeace urged countries of the region to explore developing solar power as an alternative energy source. It said it chose Egypt to launch its report because the Middle East and North Africa have the potential to become major centers for solar power. Additionally, a Cairo suburb was the site of a pioneering solar power project, started in 1912 by a German engineer named Frank Shuman.

"Solar power can open up new opportunities for countries in the sunbelt to establish a new industry," Greenpeace campaigner Sven Teske told a press conference in Cairo.

Teske added that the industry also has export potential - a key concern for most Arab countries that, with exception of major oil- exporters, tend to have very low exports. Solar power "offers a triple benefit: It creates jobs, energy and supports climate protection," said Teske, highlighting ideas in the report titled "Concentrated Solar Thermal Power - Now!"

The report argues that using solar thermal power could cut CO2 emissions by 362mn tonnes by 2025, making an important contribution to international climate protection targets.

Report co-authors are SolarPaces, a project by the multilateral International Energy Agency to explore and promote the use of solar power, and ESTIA, the European Solar Thermal Power Industry Association.

"Egypt is one of the key countries in North Africa to start this technology again. There is a plan here, including one for investment," Teske said, explaining that there was a decade-long lull in the spread of solar technology. Several international donors have expressed interest in supporting Egypt's efforts to develop solar thermal power plants, having already facilitated the establishing of several wind power stations.

Teske argued that solar thermal power plants, which provide electricity to homes and industry, are the means by which North African countries could best be able to use solar power on a large scale. While use of solar panels to power homes is increasingly popular in places like Spain and California, a cost of some $4,000 for the technology to power a home in Egypt is simply not viable, given that electricity is subsidised and incomes are low, Teske conceded. Solar panels for homes, are however, a good option in places like Japan where electricity is relatively expensive internationally, Teske said. Michael Geyer, executive secretary of SolarPaces, was optimistic that solar power's popularity would soon take off given spiraling international prices for oil.

Geyer emphasised the practical and economic benefits solar power has to offer North African countries. In Mediterranean countries, peak demand for electricity has tended in the past to be on winter evenings, said Geyer, but in Spain that shifted to the summer during the past two years.

"Looking at the increasing number of air conditioners in Cairo, the tendency here will probably be that demand peaks in the summer," Geyer said, suggesting that solar power has the potential to save developing countries hard currency and create jobs.

Many of the components of solar thermal power plants could be made domestically, Geyer argued, in contrast with many of the components for fossil fuel plants, which developing countries tend to import. The Greenpeace solar power campaign is touring the Mediterranean on its ship the "Anna" and had hoped to sail down the Nile River from Alexandria, but was unable to obtain all the necessary permits from the Egyptian government. It has held exhibition in Cairo on solar power which will tour Egypt.

(Inputs from PAGE sources. Courtesy Tehrantimes)

 
 

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