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Nov 14 - 20, 2005


Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani has said that the European Union should appreciate Iran's approach to resuming nuclear negotiations.

Larijani wrote a letter to the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany, and France on Sunday calling for fresh talks with the EU trio.

"In our letter, we told Europe that we want to secure the Iranian nation's right to the peaceful application of nuclear technology through resuming nuclear talks," he said in a question and answer session at the closing ceremony of the 13th International Conference on Central Asia and the Caucasus.

In an interview with the BBC, Larijani stated that the offer to resume stalled nuclear talks with Europe was his final attempt to salvage negotiations, insisting Tehran would never renounce its right to enrich uranium.

European foreign ministers have said they are studying the proposal but have yet to indicate if they will accept the offer.

The letter says Iran has a "certain and indisputable right to have access to the complete nuclear fuel cycle and enrichment capability for peaceful purposes such as research, medical, genetics, agricultural and similar applications."

It says that this right is "explicit and unambiguous" under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Speaking at the Tehran conference, Larijani said, "We believe accessing nuclear technology is a strategic decision and therefore pursue the process of talks with Russia, China, and member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement in this respect."

On the recent harsh remarks made by British officials about Iran's nuclear program, he noted that such remarks should not be taken seriously since they are generally meant for media use. "I believe they have to realize Iranian diplomats are intelligent enough not to take such remarks seriously."

The threat of referral to the UN Security Council is not issues that can make Iran forgo the nation's rights, the top nuclear negotiator said. Larijani stated that the resumption of talks can serve as a wise and logical way to handle the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

"However, negotiations should be based upon a certain framework and schedule and, as I have said before, dialogue is not the only way to resolve the current dispute."

He went on to say that Iran firmly insists that its nuclear activities are for completely peaceful purposes, a claim which can also be confirmed through the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"Thus, the propaganda disseminated by some countries against Iran's nuclear activities is groundless.

"I believe the IAEA has turned into a tool for major powers, through which they pursue their unilateral policies, and today unilateralism has cast a shadow over the nuclear sphere," Larijani opined.

The European Union has attempted to persuade Iran to permanently suspend uranium enrichment as a watertight guarantee that its nuclear program is peaceful and sees it as a condition to reopen the stalled talks.

"Our strategy is that we have to achieve nuclear technology and the resumption of... conversion is a sign that Iran is determined to master nuclear technology," Larijani told the BBC.

On enrichment, he said, "Absolutely it is part of our program. We are not stopping short of enrichment.

"Through the language of force and threats you cannot persuade Iran to give up this right."

But he also said the offer made to the Europeans "shows Iran's serious willingness to resume negotiations".

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi also rebuffed the European demands for Iran to give up enrichment.

"Iran will never renounce its right. The Europeans must respect the agreements from the past and, instead of making excessive demands, recognize Iran's right so the conditions of an understanding are satisfied.

"The EU's statement was surprising. We suggest the Europeans change their behavior toward Iran," Asefi told state television.

The European Union urged Iran on Monday to comply with the IAEA's September resolution calling on Tehran to halt uranium conversion at its Isfahan plant.


The annual motor show, being held at the Jeddah International Exhibition & Convention Center on Madinah Road from Nov. 13-18, envisages a glittering display of the latest, the most luxurious and futuristic models of cars and their accessories. In addition, the event - Saudi International Motor Show '05 - boasts many contests for young drivers and children.

The 27th international event for vehicles, motorcycles, auto parts, accessories and garage equipment, is being held with the support and active participation of the Ministry of Transport and the Jeddah Traffic Department. "It will showcase premium brands of automotive vehicles representing all segments from cars and motorbikes to trucks and commercial vehicles," a senior management executive of Al-Harithy Company for Exhibitions Ltd. (ACE) said.

"The stylish vehicles reflecting the contemporary demand for every day transport of the royally inclined, the corporate and the family will be a major source of attraction," ACE Exhibitions Director Zahoor Siddique said. The show will also demarcate space for specially modified cars suiting the personal tastes of car-buffs and enthusiasts.

A major component of the event is "Autocare," the after-market showcase for spare parts, garage equipment, gadgets and trade services related to the automotive industry. The regular highlights of the exhibition include media zone, live action zones and family zones featuring radio-controlled car-racing displays, off-road test drives, stunt driving, and other motor sport events.

Hall One of the exhibition venue will display the latest models of volume-production cars while Hall Two will showcase light commercial vehicles. Heavy commercial vehicles will be exhibited in the Plaza area. A special driving track built with over 1 km of obstacles to test off-road vehicles promises is to be another major attraction.


Riyadh will host an international energy forum next month, Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper reported. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah will attend the opening ceremony along with more than 20 oil ministers from both oil producing and consuming countries. The forum will discuss cooperation between oil producers and consumers in order to ensure stable oil prices.


Women who work at larger businesses in Saudi Arabia were pleased with the Ministry of Labor ruling that calls for nurseries at workplaces that employ 50 women or more, but for women in smaller workplaces the lack of childcare is a big problem.

Schools, universities and some hospitals provide nannies and nurseries for women employees. Although mothers are charged to use the services, many say it's worth it.

But working women are calling on the Ministry of Labor to tackle the problem and examine new criteria, such as the number of hours worked and workplace nursery fees, to address their needs.

The practice of hiring maids can alleviate the problem for some women, but without a maid or nanny a woman returning from a maternity leave faces enormous challenges.

"I just delivered my daughter two weeks ago, and I have no maid at home," said Samira, who works as a hairdresser. "It's a blessing that my manager allowed me to work only night shifts. Now I can take care of my daughter while my husband works in the morning until I tuck her into bed; then he just watches her while she falls asleep."

As one might imagine, it was a very busy time of the year for hairdressers. Some even worked in the afternoon and then returned to the salon in the evening.

"I leave my kids at home and worry all day that something may happen to them," said hairdresser Sarah Jameel. "Although I call from time to time, I still wish they could be near me, especially since none of them go to school yet, and I don't know how they would handle an unpleasant situation." It's also a tough situation for women who work split shifts at banks.

"I barely manage to clean the house, and sometimes cook," said bank employee Kholoud Ahmad. "I can't even think about having babies who I can't be there for." Kholoud said her friends who have babies suffer all the time and that worrying about being unable to be with their kids has affected many women. "Not many men welcome the idea of hiring a nanny," she said. "That's why many women prefer not to have babies now."

The Ministry of Labor will be checking on businesses to make sure the new ruling is implemented, Al-Eqtisadiah daily reported recently. Businesses that have 50 working mothers must provide a nanny, and companies employing 100 working mothers must provide a fully equipped nursery room and nannies. But even as the new rules are implemented, many mothers hope and pray that more help is on the way.


Saudi Arabian Airlines will receive next month first two planes of the 15 new Embraer aircraft it ordered last April, its Director General Dr. Khaled Ben-Bakr announced. He said the new fleet of aircraft would improve the airline's services.

Ben-Bakr signed a deal worth $400 million with Mauricio Botelho, president and CEO of Brazil's Embraer aircraft company to purchase the new planes on April 27. The deal included establishment of a maintenance center. The Embraer 170, which according to Dr. Ben-Bakr, is a technically advanced aircraft, which is manufactured with the support of specialized American, Japanese, French and Spanish companies.

As per the deal, Saudia will receive the first two aircraft in December and another two in January. "Later on we'll receive one aircraft every month until all the 15 planes are delivered," the Saudia chief said. The national carrier will use the Embraer to add frequencies on existing regional and domestic flights and eventually develop mini-hubs in the northern city of Hail and the southern resort city of Abha.


Iraq is making $88 million per day from its oil exports to world markets, Oil Minister Ibrahim Mohammed Mahr Al- Olum said in press remarks. "Iraq's crude oil exports are now totaling 1.6 million barrels per day and a barrel is selling for $55, therefore Iraq's income is 88 million barrels per day," Olum told the US funded Al-Sabah newspaper. He said despite the high price of oil internationally, Iraq is still suffering from oil derivative shortages prompting Baghdad to import from neighboring countries.


Lawyers representing Saddam Hussein reiterated their suspension of contacts with the special tribunal trying the ousted Iraqi president until they are given better security.

"The defense team reaffirms that it is totally committed to its decision to suspend all contact with the tribunal," said a statement.

The team took the original decision late October, following the killing of Saadun Janabi, an attorney representing one of Saddam's co-defendants, a day after the ousted dictator's trial opened on charges of crimes against humanity.

The statement added that the team "has not meanwhile had any contact with the government or the tribunal" about its security. A statement issued last month said that "In view of the dangerous security conditions in Iraq and their impact on Iraqi members of the defense team, along with the never-ending threats against them and their families... a decision has been taken to fully suspend all contacts with the Iraqi Special Tribunal."

Defense lawyers said their boycott would last until their demands were met and appealed for a time freeze on proceedings in the meantime.

The trial, which opened on October 19 in Baghdad, was adjourned until November 28 after Saddam and his seven co-defendants pleaded not guilty over the 1982 massacre of Shiite villagers.

The lawyers put forward 10 conditions for ending their protest, including an independent international investigation into Janabi's killing, UN protection for meetings of the defense committee and the hiring of 15 bodyguards per lawyer to ensure their protection.

They also asked to be allowed to carry weapons and to be given passes to get them through Iraqi and U.S. security checkpoints.

The lawyers also said they wanted assurances that security forces would not raid their offices or homes or tap their telephones, that money and documents confiscated from them be returned and that no lawyer be arrested without the bar association being informed of it.

They also asked that foreign lawyers be allowed to assist in the defense and be recognized by the court within two weeks.

Lead lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi stressed, however, that the suspension of contacts did not amount to a boycott, a move which would allow the court to replace the defense team.


With soaring oil prices projected to swell state coffers by a further $26 billion this year, Kuwaiti authorities are facing mounting pressure to distribute some of the windfall as cash handouts to the Gulf state's already wealthy population. Under proposals being pushed by MPs, each family in the tiny energy-rich emirate would receive a cash grant of 10,000 dinars ($34,000).

The government has made clear its strong opposition to the plans, which come on top of thousands of dollars in handouts already agreed and are likely to fan mounting resentment in consumer nations over the high cost of fuel. But MPs, who are up for re-election barely 18 months away, are determined to press ahead with the proposals and are to convene in special session next week.

Two versions of the plan are being canvassed ahead of the Nov. 16 session. The first, championed by veteran tribal MP Khalaf Al-Enezi, would see each family receive the $34,000 as a grant.

The second - advocated by another tribal lawmaker, Daifallah Buramia - would see the money handed out to write off bank loans with compensation for families that have not taken out loans.

In defense of his proposal, Buramia said it was far better to spend the money on Kuwait's citizen population of just under a million than to spend it on debt forgiveness for historic foe Iraq as the government is proposing. "Distributing our money to our people is far better than granting it to Iraq and other states who stood against Kuwait," following Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion, the MP said.

Each proposal is budgeted to cost the government up to $6 billion, a fraction of the $30 billion surplus already accumulated over the past six fiscal years, let alone the record $26 billion windfall that analysts expect the government to achieve this year.Buramia has already secured the backing of at least 28 MPs in the 49-seat Parliament, enough to force the special session but short of a majority in the legislature in which the 16 cabinet ministers also have a vote.

Prime Minister Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who has demanded sweeping reform of Kuwait's ultra-generous welfare state, bluntly opposed the idea of the new handouts, saying: "It will never be accepted."

His government has the power to reject the plans even if they secure a majority, but parliament can override the veto with a two-thirds majority.

Already this year, the Kuwaiti government, which also has overseas assets estimated at more than $100 billion that do not figure in the state budget and are believed to generate between three and $6 billion a year, has made a raft of payouts in additional social expenditure.

Under pressure from Parliament, the government agreed to pay each citizen a grant of $680 and a monthly salary increase of $170. It also agreed to give each family an allowance of $6,800 dollars in free power and water. The total cost of those payments is estimated at more than $3 billion. The government also bowed to parliamentary pressure this summer to modify the social security law - already one of the most generous in the world - so that an additional $750 million is spent on pensioners.

Some MPs are pressing for a further amendment of the law to exempt pensioners from paying interest on their loans at an estimated cost of $750 million. The Gulf emirate provides a cradle-to-grave welfare system to its citizens who pay no taxes and receive most public services either free or at heavily-subsidized rates.

More than 90 percent of the national workforce of 300,000 is employed in government jobs with higher pay and shorter working hours than in the private sector.

Critics say that any greater spending on Kuwait's pampered citizenry threatens to call into question the very future of a country that depends so heavily on a large and disenfranchised expatriate workforce. "What is happening in Parliament constitutes a threat to national security and the future of Kuwait," said a report from leading analysts Al-Shall Economic Consultants.


In a stark admonition to the industrialized West, the International Energy Agency is warning that the world's consumption of crude will soar over the next quarter decade, leaving Western economies increasingly dependent on oil from an unstable Middle East -- and swimming in a soup of greenhouse gases.

Within that gloomy outlook, there is a bright spot. The IEA says there is ample oil to quench the growing thirst for oil for decades, dismissing the view of peak-oil advocates who contend the world is on the brink of a catastrophic drop in crude production.

Nicola Pochettino, senior energy analyst at the IEA, said the agency does not believe that physical supplies of oil will peak in the next quarter century, but that there is a question as to whether the world's energy producers will invest enough. The agency says the world will need to spend $17 trillion by 2030 on a broad range of energy needs, including conventional oil and gas, an estimate that has risen to $1 trillion from last year. "Money can find oil.

The problem is for the oil to find the money," said Mr. Pochettino, noting that the IEA study examined 200 major oil fields, including those in Saudi Arabia that the peak-oil believers contend are on the verge of collapse. In its World Energy Outlook issued yesterday, the IEA outlines a future of rampant energy growth, where demand soars by more than 50 percent, and the world is using the equivalent of 16.3 billion tons of oil. The vast majority of those new demands would be met by increased consumption of fossil fuels -- and much of that would come from North Africa and the Middle East. Production from Canada's oil sands and other similar non-conventional sources would quintuple, but conventional crude from the Persian Gulf would still dominate.

Under that scenario, oil prices would ease slightly by the end of the decade, but rise by 2030, to more than $40 a barrel in constant 2004 dollars, or above $70 a barrel in nominal terms, which does not strip out the effect of inflation. But the IEA said its central concerns are less about petro-economics than the political and environmental consequences. Such a rise in oil consumption would inflate the importance of production from North Africa and the Middle East -- largely overlapping the membership of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. That area would account for 44 percent of world supply, up from 35 percent last year. At the same time, emissions of greenhouse gases would soar, "calling into question the long-term sustainability of the global energy system," the IEA warned.

"We must change these outcomes and get the planet onto a sustainable energy path," said Claude Mandil, executive director of the IEA, which was formed in the aftermath of the 1973 OPEC oil embargo and advises Western industrialized nations on energy policy.

The IEA report examines just such a path, which it dubs the "world alternative policy." In that scenario, governments have pursued conservation measures that trim energy demand by 10 percent, driving down emissions of greenhouse gas by 16 percent from where they would have otherwise been. Oil prices are lower, but the expense of conservation technologies mean that the overall cost of energy is higher.

A third scenario, called "deferred investment," looks at the fallout from crude-producing countries in North Africa and the Middle East falling short of needed capital spending on oil fields. In that world, oil consumption is muted, not because of decreased demand but due to shortfalls in supply. Prices, again in nominal terms, would spike to more than $90 a barrel by 2030, but that forces the region's share of world production down slightly to 33 percent.

Vincent Lauerman, global energy analyst with the Canadian Energy Research Institute in Calgary, said a greater dependence on OPEC oil is not necessarily a problem since the cartel has come to realize that moderate prices benefit both consumers and producers. Unquenchable thirst

The growing global thirst for crude in the next quarter century will increase the West's already heavy dependence on Middle Eastern oil, the International Energy Agency warns in its latest energy outlook -- heightening concerns about the vulnerability of shipments from the Persian Gulf and the risk that OPEC will use its dominance to ratchet up prices.


Five US soldiers in Iraq alleged to have punched and kicked Iraqi detainees have been charged with abusing them, the US military said.

"The allegations stemmed from an incident on September 7 in which three detainees were allegedly punched and kicked by the soldiers as they were awaiting movement to a detention facility," the military said in a statement.

US soldier Lynndie England, 22, was sentenced by a US military court on September 27 to three years' jail after being convicted of abuse.

Yesterday's statement said the soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment were charged on Saturday with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice but gave no other details.

"All allegations of abuse are taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly, and appropriate action is taken based on the findings of the investigation," the statement said.

England was the last of a group of US soldiers to be convicted of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, including Charles Graner, her former boyfriend, who is serving 10 years.


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