SADDAM STILL CLAIMS TO BE
Saddam Hussein's trial has
begun in Baghdad with the ousted Iraqi leader defiantly questioning
the validity of the court before pleading not guilty. He refused to
confirm his identity telling the presiding judge: "Who are you?
What is all this?"
All eight defendants pleaded
not guilty to charges of ordering the killing of 148 Shia men in 1982.
If convicted, they could face the death penalty. After just over three
hours, the trial was adjourned until November 28. Saddam Hussein's
defense team had said they wanted a postponement to prepare their
case, but a leading news agency quoted the chief judge as saying the
main reason was witnesses had not shown up. The trial began in an
imposing marble building that once served as the National Command
Headquarters of Saddam's Baath Party, in the heavily fortified Green
Zone in the Iraqi capital. TV pictures showed Saddam and his
co-defendants being led into pens in the courtroom.
The 68-year-old former leader
was wearing a dark suit with an open-necked shirt and carried a copy
of the Quran. As he was being led in by two guards, he gestured with
his hand to slow them down. Asked to confirm his name by the chief
judge, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, a Kurd, Saddam Hussein refused.
Amid some verbal sparring
with the judge, the former Iraqi leader stated: "I preserve my
constitutional rights as the president of Iraq. I do not recognize the
body that has authorized you and I don't recognize this aggression.
"What is based on injustice is unjust ... I do not respond to
this so-called court, with all due respect."
Later, as the trial
adjourned, he was involved in what appeared to be a scuffle with the
guards who wanted to grab his arms to escort his out. But this
appeared to be for the benefit of the media, reports the BBC's John
Simpson from inside the courtroom. Right from the start this was a
battle for control of the courtroom and beyond that, for Iraqi public
As the proceedings went on,
Saddam interrupted the prosecutor several times, accusing him of
lying, but the judges decided not to silence him. The case concerns
the rounding up and execution of 148 men in Dujail, a Shia village
north of Baghdad, following an attempt there on Saddam's life.
Saddam's co-accused are Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, his half-brother
who was his intelligence chief; former Vice-President Taha Yassin
Ramadan; Awad Hamed al-Bandar, a former chief judge; and Dujail Baath
party officials Abdullah Kadhem Ruaid, Ali Daeem Ali, Mohammed Azawi
Ali and Mizher Abdullah Rawed.
In Dujail, a few
demonstrators gathered in the main square chanting: "Saddam
Hussein should be executed, him and his whole family." But in the
former leader's home town of Tikrit, supporters vowed loyalty to
Saddam with a banner saying: "We sacrifice our blood and soul for
Iraqi government spokesman
Laith Kubba defended the decision to put the former leader on trial.
"Iraqis have not forgotten yet that the reason why the country is
in such a mess, it's because one man stole the will of 27 million
people for 35 years and pushed them into wars and misery," Kubba
told a news conference.
The case is the first of many
expected to be brought against the former Iraqi leader. Court
officials say the case was chosen because it was the easiest and
quickest case to compile. If found guilty, defendants are meant to be
hanged within 30 days of the appeals process being exhausted,
according to the tribunal statutes.
However, prosecution lawyers
also want to bring charges concerning the gassing of 5,000 people in
the Kurdish village of Halabja in March 1988, and the suppression of a
Shia revolt following the first Persian Gulf War. Saddam Hussein was
captured in 2003 after the American-led invasion of Iraq.
Court must charge Saddam with
instigating wars against Iran and Kuwait: Iran "We welcome the
start of the trial of Saddam, who has committed crimes against
humanity, particularly against the people of Iraq, Iran, and
Kuwait," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said in a
statement on Wednesday. "We hope this court will heal the wounds
of those who were harmed by Saddam's crimes... (and) also teach a good
lesson to other oppressors," he added.
Asefi also noted that on the
list of charges against Saddam Hussein, the court must include the
charges of starting the bloody and destructive wars with Iran and
Kuwait. Iran is lobbying and taking the appropriate measures in this
regard the most important of which is filing a complaint in connection
with the eight-year Iraq-Iran war which will be submitted to the
court. Western countries backed and armed Saddam during his war with
Iran and turning a blind eye to his use of outlawed weapons.
"This will be the trial of Britain and America's puppet, which
goes on trial because of his disobedience," Reuters quoted Mohsen,
a student and member of the volunteer Basij militia, as saying.
"When are American and
British leaders going to go on trial for their crimes against humanity
and killing innocent people? Saddam's trial is the trial of a war
criminal by other war criminals," he said. Ali Reza, a government
official who spent almost eight years in Iraqi prisoner of war camps
after being captured at the frontline, said he could not wait to see
Saddam sentenced. "I'm very happy that after such a long time
Saddam is going to be punished, I hope he will be executed," Reza
KING ABDULLAH URGES DEVELOPED
WORLD TO CUT OIL TAXES
While reiterating Riyadh's
support to stabilize the world oil market, Custodian of the Two Holy
Mosques King Abdullah urged industrialized countries to play their
part by either lifting or reducing taxes on oil products. King
Abdullah made this comment during a meeting with International
Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato at Al-Salam
Palace. "King Abdullah told the IMF chief that the industrialized
countries should not impose taxes on petroleum products at all or
reduce them in order to lessen the burden on consumers," said
Finance Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf. Al-Assaf, who was present at
the meeting, said the king had emphasized that Saudi Arabia would
continue its efforts to stabilize the oil market and that de Rato had
commended Saudi oil policies.
Maintaining taxes at the
current levels would impact on the future investment in oil producing
countries and on the petroleum market in general. Dr. Nahed Taher,
senior economist at the National Commercial Bank, told Arab News that
"OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development)
countries are always complaining that high oil prices are leading to
recession and lowering the demand for goods and services in the world
economy, but the higher oil prices and the subsequent increase in the
cost of producing goods and services are mainly coming from the higher
taxes that these countries impose on their internal consumers of
oil." She said some countries were imposing taxes as high as 75
percent of the total cost of oil. "As a result, these countries
make an income which might be three to four times what the oil
producing countries make from higher oil prices," Taher pointed
out. As an example, she said, the money Italy makes out of oil taxes
is three times more than what UAE (United Arab Emirates) makes out of
oil exports. "That means that if the recession happens or the
demand for goods and services is lower the reason is the taxes on oil
consumption rather than the higher oil prices," she argued.
Saudi Arabia has embarked on
a series of projects, which are estimated to cost $50 billion, to
increase oil production to 12.5 million barrels per day by the
beginning of 2009. Speaking to reporters after attending a meeting of
GCC finance ministers in Jeddah, Al-Assaf also said that de Rato had
praised the Kingdom's plan to use part of its surplus budget for
welfare projects and cut down public debts of SR600 billion. "We
are working continuously to reduce public debts and there is good
progress in this respect. God willing, we'll announce the remaining
debts by the end of this year," the minister said while answering
a question. Al-Assaf said the Kingdom had approved the applications of
GCC banks to open their branches in the country, adding that the
Emirates Bank International had already opened its branch. "GCC
banks which want to open their branches in the Kingdom will face no
obstacles," he added.
Al-Assaf denied reports that
the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) had urged the
Finance Ministry to cut down corporate taxes. "We have already
brought down income tax to 20 percent, which is a competitive rate
compared to other countries," he explained.
The Islamic Republic of
Iran's commerce minister said it takes seven years for the country to
join World Trade Organization (WTO). Masud Mirkazemi told reporters,
"We should produce high-quality goods to be able to compete with
other countries before joining WTO." He pointed to changing
production styles and current internal regulations as main
prerequisites for joining WTO. He also urged the government to
decrease import taxes. Criticizing low quality of domestic products,
Mirkazemi said Iranian goods could not compete in the international
markets last year. "Spread of production management should be
regarded as a priority by the industrialists across the country. We
should improve production infrastructure and planning on the basis of
world standards," Mirkazemi concluded.
Middle Eastern holding
company Kuwait Projects Co. (KIPCO) plans to establish a $100-million
firm in Tunis to handle all its investments in North Africa, an
official said in remarks published on Monday. Mohammad Al-Faquih,
deputy president of KIPCO offshoot Tunis International Bank (TIB),
told Kuwaiti state news agency KUNA the new company would be launched
by end of the year. With assets of $10 billion under management, KIPCO
has a portfolio of some 70 companies in financial services, media and
telecommunications, real estate and industry throughout the Middle
East and North Africa.
QATAR FOR INCREASING RELIEF
HH the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin
Khalifa al-Thani has issued directives to Qatar Red Crescent Society
to provide urgent additional humanitarian relief supplies for Pakistan
earthquake victims. An official source at the Foreign Ministry said
the aid was part of Qatar's relief supplies to Pakistan to express its
solidarity with the friendly people of Pakistan and as a contribution
to help alleviate the effect of this disaster.
A strong new aftershock
jolted cities across northern Pakistan late yesterday, hours after two
other tremors rattled survivors of the massive October 8 quake,
witnesses and officials said. The latest shock measuring 5.2 on the
Richter scale was felt at 5.47pm (1247 GMT), shortly after the end of
the day's Ramadan fast, Meteorological department chief Qamaruz Zaman
said. The epicentre was near quake-hit Muzaffarabad, the capital of
Pakistani Kashmir, about 120km (74 miles) north of Islamabad. There
were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan made a dramatic appeal for urgent help from the
world community for Pakistan to prevent a second massive wave of
deaths in the wake of the recent earthquake. Annan told reporters that
an estimated 3mn people were homeless with no blankets or tents to
protect them from the merciless Himalayan winter. "That means a
second, massive wave of death will happen if we do not step up our
efforts now," he added.
Qatar Red Crescent (QRC)
Society has urged doctors and nurses to volunteer for earthquake
relief operations in Pakistan and India. The minimum period of service
will be 21 days. Those interested can call the QRC media co-ordinator
at 5837338, or send their CVs to firstname.lastname@example.org QRC said that there
was an urgent need for three doctors, two orthopaedic surgeons and
four nurses. QRC has already established a medical centre in Bagh in
Pakistani-administered Kashmir, in co-ordination with the Pakistani
Red Crescent. The camp will be open for the next four months.
According to the QRC figures, the tremor has left 2.5mn people
homeless and 75,000 injured, of which only 17,000 have been treated.
The relief teams are yet to reach 35% of the quake-hit areas, the
ASIAN FINANCE BANK
Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) has
received a license for a full-fledged Islamic bank in Malaysia. To be
known as Asian Finance Bank (AFB), it will be based in Malaysia and
will cater to the Islamic banking requirements of customers in that
country besides Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei. QIB general manager
Salah Mohamed al-Jaidah observed. AFB would start functioning in the
first half of 2006.
"We will design and
launch Sharia-compliant products both for the retail and corporate
segments. There is a huge demand for Islamic banking products in
Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei. We will tap it," al-Jaidah
He said QIB would represent
70% of the investors in AFB. The bank's actual stake in Asian Finance
Bank, however, would be lower than that. Kuwait-based Gulf Investment
House and a GCC entity based in Malaysia will represent the remaining
(30%) investors. Al-Jaidah said QIB was in the process of establishing
a European Finance House (EFH) in London. It was aimed at helping
investors place their money in the European market and non-Islamic
European banks structure and market Sharia-complaint products in that
continent. Trade finance, trade guarantee and refinance requirements
based on Sharia principles will also be met by the EFH.
The QIB general manager said
a plan was being put in place to reactivate the Arab Finance House in
Lebanon, in which Qatar Islamic Bank had a major stake. "We wish
to make the best use of the emerging Lebanese market. We are closely
watching the recent political developments in that country," he
said. Al-Jaidah said Solidarity Insurance, a Bahrain-based joint
venture Islamic insurer with QIB as its major promoter, would design
and launch several Sharia-compliant insurance products in the Qatari
market next year.
"It has the license to
market them locally through the QIB platform. Solidarity has already
become operational in Qatar through Qatar Islamic Bank," al-Jaidah
RAISE IN OIL, GAS PRICES
Consumers should brace for
crude oil and natural gas prices possibly doubling or tripling this
winter, Matthew Simmons, a best-selling author and oil-supply bear,
"Prices are really cheap
today and they need to go a lot higher, and they probably will go a
lot higher," Simmons said in Ottawa. "I am very concerned,
given the destructive damage done by (Hurricanes) Katrina and Rita
that the US must be closer to starting to see significant product
shortages than we've seen since 1979."
Too much got destroyed and
too little has been brought back on stream, the Houston-based analyst
said. He also said that cold weather this winter could bring a very
high risk of natural gas curtailment in the US. "Either one of
those events (oil product shortage or natural gas shortage) could send
prices two to three times higher than they are today," he said
after a speech in Ottawa.
That could translate into
natural gas prices of $40 per million British thermal units from more
than $13 now, he said. Doubling or tripling crude would put it in the
range of $125 to $190 per barrel. "Everyone keeps thinking there
is a (price) ceiling...There is no ceiling," said Simmons, who
wrote in his book Twilight in the Desert that Saudi oil output is at
or near its peak. He said he has seen little sign that higher prices
so far have done much to reduce consumption. Simmons said supplies of
heating fuel oil were in okay shape, but could drain fast if the
weather turned cold. Diesel is tight and shortages of jet fuel had
caused some planes to be diverted from some airports.
"It's going to be
painful for people to get used to actually paying real money for a
really valuable resource," he said. Oil prices, meanwhile, sank
yesterday on news of a surprise jump in US gasoline and crude reserves
last week, while Hurricane Wilma looked set to avoid storm-weary Gulf
Coast installations, dealers said. Crude oil for November delivery
fell 90¢, or 1.4%, to $62.30 a barrel at the 2:30pm closes of floor
trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gasoline for November
delivery declined 6.52¢, or 3.8%, to $1.67 a gallon in New York.
In London, the December Brent
crude-oil futures contract fell 77¢, or 1.3%, to $58.51 a barrel on
the International Petroleum Exchange. Heating oil for November
delivery fell 2.42¢, or 1.3%, to $1.91 a gallon in New York. Futures
touched $1.875, the lowest since September 26.
Traders were digesting the
latest snapshot from the US Department of Energy, which showed that
crude stocks surged over the past week as more supplies came online
following recent hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The DoE said crude
stocks rose 5.6mn barrels in the week to October 14, almost three
times more than forecasts of a 2mn-barrel increase. Gasoline reserves
gained 2.77mn barrels, compared with market predictions of a
1.2mn-barrel decrease. Most analysts had expected a decline as a
result of the refinery shutdowns in the US Gulf of Mexico.
"The figures are
extremely bearish," noted Societe General analyst Deborah White.
"The crude build is much larger than we expected and the market
was expecting a gasoline draw and of course we saw a build."
Distillates, used for heating oil and diesel fuel, showed a decline of
1.9mn barrels, more than analysts' forecasts of a decrease of 1.7mn.
White added: "The
unexpected factor is just how much they managed to increase
gasoline" production at US refineries, while "gasoline
imports were the highest ever in my view. Those two things in tandem
were enough to flip the market."
Meanwhile, Hurricane Wilma
became the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic as it
hurtled toward Mexico and the US coast - but would likely spare oil
infrastructures. "Wilma is supposed to hit Florida and not the
Gulf of Mexico, but it could easily change direction when it hits
land," said Investec analyst Bruce Evers.
"It would be absolutely
disastrous if Wilma went through the oil platforms again."
Authorities ordered the evacuation of tourist resorts in the path of
the monster storm, the 12th hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic season,
which the US National Hurricane Centre said was "potentially
catastrophic". Oil prices had retreated $1.16 in New York on
Tuesday after Wilma changed direction towards the Florida coastline.
Prices have fallen over 5%
since the start of the month but analysts fear that low stockpiles of
distillates - including crucial heating fuel - could cause problems
ahead of the northern hemisphere winter. Six Gulf Coast refineries
remain closed following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and others are
just restarting. Those six facilities account for around 7.6% of the
total refining capacity of the US, while the Gulf Coast itself
accounts for some 29% of total US crude production.