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Friday, December 25, 2009

Iran, Vietnam keen to increase bilateral trade exchanges

Tehran – Commerce Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari Wednesday evening in Hanoi called for facilitation of trade exchanges between Iran and Vietnam.
He made the remarks in a meeting with President of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vu Tien Loc held on the sidelines of the 6th session of Iran-Vietnam joint economic and trade commission.

The Iranian minister said the two countries' private sectors can play key roles in expansion of bilateral trade cooperation between the two sides.

Voicing his country’s readiness to further promote economic and trade relations with Iran, the Vietnamese official called for making use of Iran as a transit route for export of Vietnamese goods to the regional markets.

Exchange of delegations to study marketing and investment potentials in both countries was also stressed by the two officials.
Source : IRNA

Cultivated coral reefs now also exported

Denpasar - The coral reefs cultivated by coastal fishermen in Serangan village, Denpasar, have found their way to the export market.

"We have been applying the technique of transplantation in coral reef cultivation and the result is that the products are now exported to Europe," Chairman of the Association of Serangan Fishermen Wayan Patut said here Thursday.

He also said that trading coral reefs is actually against the law, as it harms natural conservation.

However, by applying the transplantation technique in coral reef cultivation, the farmers produced the reefs in such a way that they could be locally marketed and even exported.

"We have been cultivating coral reefs in this way for many years including for natural conservation, in the Serangan waters," one of the farmers said.

"Besides saving nature, the technique also has its economic value, so that the farmers
became enthusiastic in both cultivating and rehabilitating coral reefs," he added.

He said he could tell the difference between observed coral reefs from the saleable cultivated ones, by monitoring the reefs and rehabilitating them.

"We have succeeded in cultivating coral reefs of different colors like brown, green, yellow, and other shades," he added.

He said the coral reefs had already been exported to various countries, like the United States, and are also marketed at local markets. Coral reefs are normally used to decorate sea water and fresh water aquariums.
Source : Antara News

Bin Laden's daughter free to leave says Iran

TEHRAN: Osama bin Laden's daughter who has taken refuge at the Saudi mission in Tehran is free to leave Iran once her identity is confirmed, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted as saying yesterday.

"A while ago the Saudi embassy here said one of bin Laden's daughters is in the compound, so the foreign ministry told the embassy that based on international conventions if her identity is confirmed she can leave Iran with passage documents," ISNA quoted Mottaki as telling state television.

"We were not able to confirm her identity but the embassy says she is" the daughter of bin Laden, he added.

A Saudi newspaper quoted Omar bin Laden, the fourth son of the Al Qaeda chief, that one of his siblings, Iman, 17, had recently sought asylum at the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Fuad Qassas, the Saudi charge d'affaires at the kingdom's embassy in Tehran, confirmed Iman was staying there, according to the newspaper, which said she has been seeking permission to leave Iran, so far without success.

Omar also said that five other siblings plus one of his father's wives who had been missing since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan had been traced to Tehran, where they are living under house arrest.

Omar, who lives in Qatar, said he only learnt his family members were still alive after receiving a call last month from his brother Uthman, who had been secretly given access to a mobile phone by a young Iranian.

British newspaper The Times reported 11 of bin Laden's grandchildren were also living in the high-security compound outside Tehran.

The group fled Afghanistan just before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US and walked to the Iranian border, where they were detained and taken to the walled compound by guards.

His relatives are said to be living as normal a life as possible, cooking meals, watching television and reading, but they are allowed out on shopping trips only rarely.

The Times said Iman escaped from the compound during one such trip last month and fled to the Saudi embassy.

Source : Gulf Daily News

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Copenhagen summit causes failure of capitalist systems: President

Shiraz, Fars Prov, Dec 24, IRNA – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday evening that the Copenhagen climate change summit resulted in the failure of the world capitalist systems.
He made the remarks in an exclusive interview with the TV network of this southern province.

The summit, an important event in the area of climate, proved the world nations that the big economic powers only think about their own interests and do not make any efforts to reduce environmental pollutions, the President noted.

The world capitalist power is on the verge of collapse, he said, reiterating that the Islamic Republic plays a key role in formation of the new world order.

Today, the presence of Iran in the Latin America has weakened the US position, he noted.

Referring to the Middle East as a sensitive and important region in the world, he said Iran has the upper hand in the entire region.

President Ahmadinejad further underlined the need for administration of justice throughout the globe.

Meanwhile, the President wound up his two-day provincial visit and returned to Tehran last night.

Source : IRNA

Dubai World poised to press for loan extensions

by Rachna Uppal and Nicolas Parasie

DEBT TALKS: A $10bn bond from Abu Dhabi last week helped Dubai stave off default on a $4.1bn sukuk from Nakheel.
Dubai World is expected on Monday to ask key creditors for more time to pay off its loans, but leave them none the wiser concerning their prospects of being paid back in full.

Saddled with a $22bn debt and in need of restructuring, the Gulf Arab emirate's flagship company is expected to formalise a request for a payment standstill at a meeting with some 90 creditors at Dubai's World Trade Center complex.

Though important, the gathering will probably mark only an intermediate step in a lengthy process, with banking sources anticipating no detailed proposals on the terms of the potential standstill to be discussed.
Raj Madha, banking analyst at EFG Hermes said:"Providing clarity is clearly the number one priority. Obviously a standstill is not ideal. But a standstill with visibility of when payments will be received or the extent of these payments would be sufficient to call it a result."

Dubai sent shockwaves through global markets on November 25 when it requested a standstill on $26bn of debts linked to Dubai World and its two property units Nakheel and Limitless.

A $10bn bond from neighbouring Abu Dhabi last week, the third to Dubai this year, helped it stave off default on a $4.1bn Islamic bond, or sukuk, from Nakheel.

According to the National, two top Dubai officials, on a confidence building mission to Britain and the United States in recent days, told financial leaders in London that repaying all bank loans in full was discussed as a medium term possibility.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, head of Dubai's Supreme Fiscal Committee and the uncle of Dubai's ruler, and Mohammed al Shaibani, deputy head of the committee, met officials in London last week.

A full repayment however, seems the most unlikely of available options and bankers expect Dubai World to propose the extension of maturities for at least a year or more while paying interest.

A steering committee of Dubai World's largest lenders met the company on December 7. The committee consists of London listed Standard Chartered , HSBC , Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland, local lenders Emirates NBD and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

Several bankers said that Lenders will take Dubai World's requests back to their credit committees, which are expected to agree the standstill request early in the New Year.

Speculations continue to mount over which assets Dubai Inc, the network of government owned companies, is willing to sell to help pay off its debt obligations.

Dubai holding's owner said that the luxury hotelier Jumeirah Group is not for sale. The group's chairman said:"Jumeirah and Dubai Holding are part of each other and Jumeirah is not going anywhere." (Reuters)

Over 10,000 artifacts retrieved

P.K. Abdul Ghafour

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has retrieved more than 10,000 of its artifacts from other countries, Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), said on Wednesday.

“Retrieving antiquities has now become a national issue,” he said, adding that the government would continue its efforts to bring back Saudi artifacts scattered across the world.

He said an exhibition of the recovered antiquities would be held soon.

Prince Sultan said the SCTA with the cooperation of other government agencies would prevent the theft of antiquities, especially the ones from the Islamic heritage sites in Makkah and Madinah.

He disclosed plans to establish a major Islamic and national museum at Al-Khozam Palace in Jeddah and a Qur’an museum in Madinah.

Efforts are also under way to establish 12 new museums in other parts of the country, he said.

“We have so far licensed more than 70 private museums in the Kingdom and will soon start providing financial support to such museums in association with banks and other public and private agencies,” he told a gathering at the residence of Abdul Maqsood Khoja, a prominent Jeddah businessman.

Prince Sultan said the Kingdom would host the first international conference on architectural heritage on April 18.

“We have received requests from at least eight world exhibition centers to display Saudi antiquities,” he pointed out. He also said that the SCTA was working on setting up a company with the private sector to develop heritage hotels.

“The commission is committed to bringing about a qualitative change in people’s perception of national heritage and antiquities,” the prince added.

“Saudi Arabia is replete with a large number of valuable antiquities and protection of these artifacts is a national duty,” he said, adding that the Kingdom would not tolerate smuggling of antiquities.

He said registration of heritage sites at UNESCO would take years, adding that the registration of Madain Saleh took four years.

“We have presented an application to UNESCO to register the historical area of Jeddah and we hope it would be voted on after two years,” he said. “We are now working on a number of programs to develop Old Jeddah into an architectural heritage site of international importance. We are facing a lot of challenges.”

Efforts are under way to renovate old palaces built during the Saudi era.

“We have completed renovation of 90 percent of these palaces and turned them into cultural centers and museums,” he pointed out.

Source : Arab News

UAE, Bahrain back Kingdom

MANAMA/RIYADH: Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday pledged their full support to the action taken by Saudi Arabia to secure its southern borders.

The backing from the two Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries came following a meeting between UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and his Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa in Manama.

Meanwhile, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah received a message from Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Wednesday, the Saudi Press Agency said.

The agency said Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi handed over the message to King Abdullah during a meeting at the king’s Janadriya ranch. It did not say anything about the content of the message.

The news agency said the meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Intelligence Chief Prince Muqrin and Yemeni Ambassador to Riyadh Muhammad Ali Al-Ahwal.

The meeting took place a day after Saudi Arabia gave ultimatum to Yemeni infiltrators to leave the Kingdom’s territory within 24 hours or face death. “They have 24 hours to surrender, or we will destroy them,” said Prince Khaled bin Sultan, assistant minister of defense and aviation, on Tuesday.

Prince Khaled said 73 Saudi soldiers were killed, 470 wounded and 26 went missing since fighting broke out in November between Saudi forces and Yemeni infiltrators.

This is the first time the Kingdom has given a death toll for the fighting between Saudi forces and Yemeni intruders, which began more than a month and a half ago. On Nov. 3, rebels killed a Saudi border guard and occupied two villages inside Saudi territory.

Prince Khaled said Saudi forces would remain in the area until the last intruder is expelled. “What we are doing now is bringing things to normal. We have also made arrangements to prevent infiltration and other crimes,” the minister told reporters.

The annual GCC summit, which was held in Kuwait City last week, had reaffirmed its support to Saudi Arabia against any attempt to undermine its security and sovereignty.

“We are fully behind Saudi Arabia against the cross-border assaults launched by armed infiltrators against the Saudi territories,” the communiqué issued at the end of the summit said. They also extended full backing to the unity, security and stability of Yemen.

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah opened the summit on Dec. 14 voicing full support for Saudi Arabia in its fight against the infiltrators.

“We renew our strong condemnation of these aggressions (against Saudi Arabia) and declare full support for whatever actions Saudi Arabia takes to defend its territory,” the emir said.

Source : Arab News

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ahmadinejad to write letter to UN on WW2 compensation

Copenhagen, Dec 18, – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he would write a letter to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to ask for compensation for damages inflicted on Iran during the Second World War.
Speaking in a press conference in his hotel in Copenhagen, Ahmadinejad said the 3 victorious countries of the WW2, i.e., US, the Soviet Union, and Britain used Iran’s land and facilities to win the war.
“In that period, Iranian people were under considerable pressures but they were not granted any compensation,” the president said.”
“These countries asked for their own compensation and received it. However, not only no compensation was given to Iran, but also when ten years later, Iranians wanted to nationalize their oil industry, the US prevented it with a military coup.”
“We will demand compensation for damages inflicted on us during the Second World War. I have assigned a group to assess the damage and I will write a letter to UN secretary general so that Iran is granted compensation.”
This is the very meaning of justice, the president underlined.
More details on the president’s press conference would follow soon.
Source : IRNA

President, four legislators attend IPU meeting in Copenhagen

Jakarta - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono along with two members of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) and the House of Representatives (DPR) each attended an Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting in Copenhagen on Wednesday (Dec 16).

The IPU meeting took place on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting, the DPR said in a press statement issued on Friday.

Two DPR or House members attending the IPU meeting were Muhammad Najib and KMRT Roy Suryo Notodiprojo, while the two members of the (DPD were the DPD Committee II Chairman, Susilo Bambang, and DPD Chairman of the Inter-Agency Relations (PHAL) Hamdhani.

The IPU meeting also discussed important issues being dealt with at the UN Conference on Climate Change.

According to Hamdhani, the DPD considered that cooperation between world parliamentarians and the UN organs such as the UNFCCC need to be enhanced in order to increase the IPU`s role in contribution to and support for the UN.

"The purpose of the meeting was to substantiate cooperation between the IPU and the UN," he said.

The IPU is an international organization which was established in 1889 and the first multilateral forum in the world. The IPU with its headquarters in Geneva is composed of 143 national parliaments and seven regional parliamentary associations.
Source : Antara News

Flood toll goes up to 121

By Muhammad Humaidan

JEDDAH: The official death toll from the Nov. 25 flash flooding in Jeddah rose to 121 on Thursday after Civil Defense officers pulled a body from an undisclosed location. Brig. Muhammad Al-Qarni, director of the Civil Defense’s crisis management center, said the 39 people are still reported missing.

Civil Defense officers also completed a search and recovery operation at Musk Lake, Jeddah’s sewage dumping grounds, on Thursday and found no bodies or vehicles. Al-Qarni said the department has so far registered 11,935 houses and 10,999 cars among properties damaged by the floods. As many as 7,754 families with 26,593 members have been provided accommodation in hotels and furnished apartments.

Meanwhile, citizens have complained that the municipality has not yet removed standing water in the city’s neighborhoods, as they fear such ponds would develop as breeding grounds of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Meanwhile, the International Islamic Relief Organization Saudi Arabia (IIROSA) announced Thursday that it has allocated SR10 million to construct houses of people affected by the Nov. 25 flash floods in Jeddah.

Adnan Khalil Basha, secretary-general of the IIROSA, said his organization would also support the poor families afflicted by the floods in order to make them productive.

“We’ll sponsor Saudi orphans and others,” he added.

Meanwhile, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) said it had distributed food baskets among 3,414 families in the flood-affected areas of Quwaiza, Jamiah, Kilo 11, Kilo 14, Ghulail, Karantina, Madain Fahd, Wadi Ashir and Wadi Mirrikh.

“We have so far carried out 11 food distribution campaigns,” said Muhammad Badahdah, general supervisor of the organization in Makkah province. He said the baskets contained rice, cooking oil, milk, sugar and tea.

WAMY also distributed 8,621 items of basic requirements such as furniture, beds, pillows, blankets and bedsheets.

“Our relief programs comes as part of our efforts to do something good in return for the big support WAMY received from people of Jeddah during the past four decades,” he said.

He said WAMY was one of the first organizations that called for coordination for relief work among the Jeddah flood victims.

Badahdah, who is assistant secretary-general of WAMY, has emphasized the need to develop the volunteering capabilities of youths by providing training.

He said young men and women had done “a wonderful job” in providing relief to Jeddah flood victims.

“The enthusiasm displayed by our youth volunteers was marvelous,” he said, adding that they knew they had big role to play.

“We have responded quickly to Jeddah floods and stopped all our external activities in order to mobilize all our resources and manpower for relief work in Jeddah,” Badahdah said, adding that WAMY’s women volunteers were also involved in relief activities.

Source : Arab News

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Russia supplies non-military helicopters to Iran

Moscow, Dec 9, IRNA – Russian non-military helicopter manufacturere 'Verthalutirussia' signed an agreement with Iranian company 'Fanavaran Aseman Giti' on Tuesday to supply helicopters to Iran.
According to the agreement, the Iranian company will represent Russian firm in Iran and will have responsibility for marketing and advertisement.
The Russian company intends to supply non-military and multi-purpose helicopters like " Mi-171", " K 226 T" and " K 62" to Iran.
The Russian private company said that Iran is a good market in the Middle East for helicopter technology.
Executive director of the company Andrea Eishinov expressed pleasure that Russian made helicopters are increasing in Iran.
He added that repair centers for Mi and K models are located in Iran's neighboring countries which is an advantage for Russian-made choppers in Iran.
Source : IRNA

Asry in $80 million key quay wall deal

MANAMA: As a major part of its expansion plan, Asry has awarded a design and build contract for the construction of a 1,380-metre quay wall to Bahrain-based Nass Contracting. The $80 million contract comprises the construction of a 1,200m quay wall, with a water depth of up to 12m, designed to receive 300,000 DWT vessels as well as a 180m berth for 40,000 DWT vessels.

The quay wall, which will have the first 400m delivered by end of next year, will be fully operational by the end of 2011. It will be equipped with all services, utilities and crainage required for providing efficient alongside repairs. The project, reviewed by consulting engineers, Haskoning UK, also includes the construction of all support facilities and infrastructure necessary to ensure a high level of reliability to Asry's valued customers. The support facilities and infrastructure are currently in the design phase and are planned for tendering in the second quarter of next year.

Source : Gulf Daily News

Lama Suleiman first deputy chairman of JCCI

By Galal Fakkar

JEDDAH: Lama Suleiman was elected on Monday first deputy chairman of the board of directors of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI). She is the first Saudi woman to hold this position and she will be second to Saleh Kamel, the Saudi businessman, who was elected chairman of the board for a new term of four years.

The election also makes Lama deputy chairman of the Riyadh-based Saudi Council of Chambers (SCC). The second deputy chairman is Mazen Batarji and the former holder of the position, Abdullah Mari’ bin Mahfouz, was elected JCCI representative to the SCC.

Lama, who holds a doctorate in hygiene and nutrition from the University of London, belongs to a well-known Jeddah family. She has held a number of senior positions including the post of director at Rolaco Company for Trading and Contracting. She owns a women’s sports club in Jeddah.

In addition, she is a member of the board of trustees of the Khadijah bint Khuwailid Center, an affiliate of the JCCI, chairperson of the council for the sponsorship of research and development of women, a member of the economic and social department of the Makkah Governorate, a member of the international economic forum for young Arab leaders and a researcher at King Fahd Hospital for the Armed Forces in Jeddah. “This is a new victory for the Saudi woman who is making progress every day,” she said.

Lama said she would attempt, through her new position, to prove that Saudi women could stand on an equal footing with men. “The first thing I will do is to inspect and follow up the relief programs for the Jeddah flood victims,” she said.

Saleh Kamel said the first priority of the JCCI under his chairmanship would be to “normalize the situation” in the areas affected by the rains and floods in Jeddah. “The private sector was equally to blame in the natural disaster. The roads, bridges and tunnels which were damaged by the water were executed by contractors and businessmen from the private sectors,” he said.

He also said the new JCCI board would set priorities for services and for providing a work environment which would provide more facilities and incentives to businessmen. He criticized the system of election to the JCCI board and said out of 40,000 members, only 6,000 had voted. “This means that 80 percent of members did not vote. This is a defect which we will rectify,” he added.

Source : Arab News

Monday, December 7, 2009

Syria interested in Iran’s experiences in water supply

Damascus, Dec 7, IRNA – Syrian Minister of Construction and Housing Umar Ibrahim Ghalwanji called Sunday for exchange of experiences with Iran in the areas of sewage and water systems.
He made the remarks in a meeting with visiting Iran’s Minister of Energy Majid Namjou.

Ghalwanji also called for materialization of a protocol on bilateral cooperation already signed by the two sides.

He welcomed investment of Iranian companies in various projects, including housing construction and water purification as well as sewage and water systems in his country.

For his part, the Iranian minister called for further expansion of bilateral cooperation and underscored the need for removing the existing obstacles on the way of mutual ties.

Namjou also voiced Iran’s readiness to exchange experiences with Syria in various fields.

Later in the day, the two countries signed an agreement on construction of Jandar power plant in the Syrian province of Homs.

The signing ceremony was held in presence of Namjou and Syrian Minister of Electricity Ahmad Qusay Kayali.
Source : IRNA

Kuwait fund sells stake in Citigroup

KUWAIT: Kuwait's sovereign wealth fund yesterday said it had sold its stake in US bank Citigroup, becoming the latest Gulf investor to sell foreign shares as markets improve.

Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) transferred its preferred stocks to normal stocks and sold them for $4.1 billion. It made a profit of $1.1bn or a 37 per cent return on its initial investment.

KIA had invested $3bn in Citigroup in preferred stocks in January 2008.

It did not disclose the number of shares it had sold or what it planned to do with proceeds.

The fund, which manages state assets, has come under fire from some parliamentarians for investing $5bn in Citigroup and Merrill Lynch. Merrill Lynch has since been bought by Bank of America.

"Every sovereign wealth fund has its own agenda and plan for investments ... but one reason (for KIA's Citigroup stake sale) might be that the situation is better than before in the US and ... maybe investors can pull back their money," said Naser Al Nafisi, general manager for Al Joman Centre for Economic Consultancy in Kuwait.

In November, Qatar sold half its Volkswagen preference shares, cashing in on recent gains and raising around 1.5bn euros ($2.26bn) for possible deals.

The value of foreign assets managed by the KIA fell by about 9bn dinars ($31.58bn) in the nine months to December 2008, due to the financial crisis, two lawmakers said in February after a government briefing.

Since October 2008, KIA has reduced the exposure of its key Future Generation fund to global equities markets.

Source : Gulf Daily News

Kuwait's Investment Dar reaches deal with creditors

by Eman Goma

TRADING HALT: Trading in Dar shares has been suspended since April 1. (Getty Images)

Kuwait's Investment Dar (TID) said on Monday it reached an agreement with its creditors and investors on a debt restructuring plan.

In November, the Islamic investment firm presented its creditors and investors with a proposal to restructure about 1 billion dinars ($3.51bn) of its debt.

The deal between Dar and its coordinating committee - which represents all creditors and investors - endorsed the proposed five-year restructuring plan, it said in a statement.

"The proposed plan is based on a restructuring of the existing financial arrangements with scheduled amortizations over a five year period," it said. Dar, which owns half of British luxury carmaker Aston Martin, defaulted on a $100 million Islamic debt issue last May - the first of its kind on a major, public Islamic instrument in the region - and has said it may sell some assets to meet its obligations.

"TID will satisfy its financial arrangements in full over the five year period. In addition, the proposed plan would provide TID's banks and investors with an enforceable security package," Dar said. In September, Kuwait's central bank appointed a temporary supervisor to monitor debt restructuring and the compilation of financial results at Dar.

Trading in Dar shares has been suspended since April 1, after the group failed to submit its 2008 financial records on time. Dar had said it was seeking to borrow up to $1 billion to refinance its debt. (Reuters)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Int’l house appliances exhibit opens

Tehran, Dec 5, IRNA -- Ninth International Exhibition of House Appliances opened in Tehran on Saturday with the participation of more than 308 Iranian and foreign companies.
Some 66 companies from Germany, Italy, England, UAE, the US, Belgium, Turkey, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, South Korea, China, France and Hong Kong are presenting their new products at the event.

The number of countries taking part in the exhibit rose by 18 percent compared to the previous one.

Some 390 items of house appliances including various types of refrigerators, ovens, washing machines, chinaware and samovars are currently on display.

Secretary General of Association of the House Appliances Suppliers Ansari put the rate of export in the first six months of the current Iranian year (started March 21) at over $117 million, adding that it shows a 70-percent increase compared to the figure for the corresponding period last year.

According to him, more than 74 percent of house appliances needed in Iran are produced inside the country.

Iran currently exports chinaware, sewing machines, water heaters to the European, Asian and African countries, Ansari said.
Source : IRNA

Oil prices stable and perfect says Saudi

CAIRO: Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia yesterday described the current oil price as stable and "perfect" for consuming and producing nations as he led talks in Cairo with other Arab oil ministers.

With oil around $75 a barrel, ministers said there was no need for the Opec to change its output targets when it met in Angola later this month.

"Everything is very good now," Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi said at a meeting of the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC).

"Inventories are coming down, the price is perfect and investors, consumers, producers are all very happy," he added. "There is nothing to worry about." Kuwaiti Oil Minister Shaikh Ahmad Abdullah Al Sabah echoed him. "There will be no increase in production whatsoever," he said, adding he believes there is a consensus among all Opec members to maintain status quo.

Opec cut 4.2 million barrels per day of its production quotas in December, bringing down the total output of the 12-member group - excluding Iraq - to 24.84m bpd.

It took the measure to support flagging oil prices, which slumped from historical highs above $147 a barrel in July last year to just above $30 after a sharp decline in demand due to the global financial crisis.

Oil prices have rebounded strongly over the past months and are currently ranging between $70 and $80 a barrel. In October, prices jumped above $80 a barrel before easing.

Libyan Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem said there are no objections among Opec members to a production rollover in Angola.

"I don't think there are objections," to maintaining output quotas, he said.

Qatar's Energy Minister Abdullah Al Attiyah also said Opec will roll over current production levels but will monitor the market next year.

"I believe the decision will be to maintain the current production levels and then wait until 2010," to assess the situation.

A conference of the 12 Opec members on December 22 in Luanda will wrestle with the task of balancing oversupply against the risk any rise in oil demand could drive up prices and derail the world economy.

Source : Gulf Daily News

Flood probe report soon

By Muhammad Humaidan

JEDDAH : The first meeting of the committee investigating the circumstances that led to the deadly flashfloods in Jeddah on Nov. 25 was held under the chairmanship of Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal at his office in Jeddah on Saturday.

“The compensation and sheltering offered to the victims under the orders of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah helped a lot to allay the sufferings of the victims,” Prince Khaled said after the meeting.

The committee, which set up a number of subcommittees, decided to take steps to complete its task and submit a final report to the king soon, the prince added. He said a second meeting of the committee will be held today.

Meanwhile, Mansour Al-Mazrouei, head of the Department of Meteorology and an expert on climate change at King Abdulaziz University, warned that unexpected climatic changes could be experienced in the Kingdom in future.

“The urban planners in Jeddah should consider unexpected turns in the weather when they make plans,” Al-Mazrouei told Arab News. He said the 90mm rainfall in six hours on Nov. 25 in Jeddah was a record. “The volume of rain that fell in a very short time triggered flashfloods that ravaged the southern and eastern districts of Jeddah.” He said Jeddah received considerable rainfall in 1996, but it was spread over a period of six days, not exceeding 40mm on any one day.

Al-Mazrouei added that only five times in the recorded history of Jeddah had rains exceeded 60mm a day, but they did not cause heavy damage.

They were all recorded in November when most rains fall in the western region in the Kingdom. “The huge volume of rain that fell in Jeddah after a long spell of rainless years could be indicative of the phenomenon of climate change coming to the Kingdom,” he said.
Source: Arab News

Friday, December 4, 2009

Brazil foreign minister in Iran to follow up economic agreements

Isfahan, Dec 3, IRNA -- Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Thursday that Iran and Brazil enjoy bright prospects for developing economic cooperation.
In a meeting with his Brazilian counterpart, Celso Amorim, on the sidelines of the third tour of the cabinet to Isfahan, he described President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the Latin American country as the first by Iranian chief executive in the past 40 years.

He said that exploring capacities and resources of the two countries was one of the main achievements of the trip.

Mottaki said that Iran-Brazil Joint Economic Commission is expected to work more actively and that regular consultations would be useful for implementing the agreements signed by the two countries.

“There is no limitation for developing bilateral ties and the prospects are achievable,” Mottaki said.

Amorim said for his part that Iranian president’s visit was successful and called for developing ties in all fields.

Stating that significant agreements have been signed between the two countries during President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Brazil, he said, “I toured Iran in line with political will of the two states’ leaders to pursue the implementation of the deals.”

He called for organizing commercial and cultural exhibitions to identify the economic, commercial, industrial, cultural, artistic and scientific capacities of both countries.
Source : IRNA

Qatar Islamic Bank has $15m exposure to Dubai World

By Neeraj Gangal

Qatar Islamic Bank said on Thursday it had exposure to a Dubai World Islamic bond maturing in 2017 worth QR54m ($14.84m).

The lender is the first Qatari bank to announce its exposure to the Dubai state-owned conglomerate, which is restructuring debts worth $26bn.

"The financial impact currently will affect the negative investment fair value reserve," it said. "QIB will keep observing the situation and its financial consequences which will be disclosed accordingly." ($1=3.638 Qatari Riyals)

Source : Reuters

Bahrain's economy 'has survived global crisis'

MANAMA: Bahrain has succeeded in withstanding repercussions from the global economic meltdown.

"The financial situation remains stable and assuring thanks to our balanced economic policies," His Royal Highness Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa said yesterday.

He was speaking as he chaired a meeting of the Economic Development Board's (EDB) executive committee. He also highlighted the importance of precautionary measures to protect Bahrain's solid financial standing.

"Contrary to most countries, the impact of the meltdown was less detrimental to this region," he said.

He expressed his confidence in the capacity of UAE officials to deal with the current crisis competently. He also highlighted the remarkable developments achieved by the UAE and other GCC countries.

Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Central Bank of Bahrain Governor Rasheed Al Maraj and EDB chief executive Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa highlighted the impact of the crisis on the region.

They discussed precautionary measures to deal with potential repercussions. Initiatives to maintain oil and gas supplies and meet Bahrain's needs also came under the spotlight.

Oil Minister and National Oil and Gas Authority chairman Dr Abdulhussain Mirza gave an update on the industry and electricity sector. Upgrading the output of Bahrain Oil Field and intensifying explorations are part of initiatives ensuring Bahrain's energy security, he said.

Source : Gulf Daily News

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Iran, Turkey to boost tourism cooperation

Ankara, Turkey, Dec 2, IRNA - Head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization Hamid Baqaei said here on Wednesday that Iran’s free zones boast of higher potentials and capabilities which can be exploited by establishing airlinks.
In a meeting with Turkish Culture Minister Ertugral Gunay, he added that tourism, in fact, is a kind of economic transaction. Iran and Turkey should reach equilibrium in this respect.

Stating that more than one million Iranians visit Turkey each year, he noted the number of Turkish visitors to Iran is one third of that figure.

Now that the two countries are set to develop bilateral cultural ties, a balance in the number of the two countries’ tourists is of paramount significance, he underlined.

Given the fact that there is no problem in issuing visas for the two states, the balance will hopefully be achieved, Baqaei noted.

Iran has set up 1,000 exemplary tourist sites, he said, declaring the country’s readiness to absorb foreign investors and setting up a joint bank with Turkey.

The official further noted that Iran and Turkey enjoy proximity since the ancient times and hoped that cultural steps such as holding exhibitions will promote affinity between them.

Gunay, for his part, said that some seven million people travel to Turkey each year, one million of which are Iranians.

Referring to the similarities between the tourism sites of the two countries, he said that serious steps should be taken in line with enhancing interactions.

Paving the grounds for establishing airlinks from Iran’s tourist sites to Turkey will help boost two-way tourism ties, he said.
Source : IRNA

Islamic finance growth seen 10-20% in 3 yrs - study

By Cecilia Valente

Most executives involved in Islamic finance expect the industry to grow by between 10 and 20 percent over the next three years, a survey published by accountancy firm BDO showed on Thursday.

The study, based on responses from 173 financial services executives active in the sector, found that 53 percent expected 10 and 20 percent growth while another 22 percent felt the industry could grow by 20-30 percent or more.

Some 23 percent felt it would experience growth of 0-10 percent, or no growth at all.
The Islamic finance industry is estimated to be worth about $1 trillion and is dominated by the issuance of Islamic bonds, or sukuk. Growth, however, has been held back by a shortage of expertise and poor harmonisation of the criteria applied to products, the survey respondents said.

Islamic products must be endorsed by scholars able to interpret sharia law and understand the technicalities of financial products.

The industry has struggled to agree on a set of common principles as it is governed by a patchwork of national regulators, standard-setting industry bodies and individual scholars ruling on products and contracts.

Due to different interpretations of the sharia or Islamic law in different regions, a financial product accepted by one set of scholars could be rejected by others. These discrepancies make cross-border distribution difficult.

AAOIFI, a Bahrain-based body responsible for accounting, auditing and governance standards in Islamic finance, is setting up a committee which will try to establish common guidelines in the industry.

"We feel that these differences are damaging our credibility severely within the Muslim (world) and outside," said Mohamad Nedal Alchaar, AAOIFI secretary general, who attended the presentation of the survey results.

The committee will include representatives of scholars, lawyers, auditors, regulators and bankers who from next year will sieve through financial products and gauge their compliance with Islamic principles.

AAOIFI's standards are adopted in some Middle Eastern markets, including the Dubai International Financial Centre.

The committee will seek to convince providers to alter products it deems inappropriate but will be prepared to go public with its concerns if no progress is made.

The BDO survey respondents picked out Islamic retail loans as the product with most revenue potential, while Islamic insurance, or takaful, was the next most popular. Sukuk were only fourth on the list, behind Islamic mortgages.

Source : Reuters

Saudi-EU ties enter new phase

Ghazanfar Ali Khan

RIYADH: Relations between Saudi Arabia and the European Union entered a new phase with the Riyadh-based European Commission Delegation changing its name to the “Delegation of the European Union to Saudi Arabia.”

EU officials also announced that Abdulrahman H. Al-Atiyah, secretary-general of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), would pay an official visit on Dec. 22 to Sweden, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

Ambassador Luigi Narbone, chief of the Delegation of the European Union to Saudi Arabia, said on Tuesday that the new name of the local EU office reflected the changes that would enhance external representation provided by the Lisbon Treaty. Narbone pointed out that the Delegation of the European Commission was established in Saudi Arabia in 2004 and is also accredited to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.

He pointed out that the Riyadh-based delegation would work to enhance the visibility of the EU in the Gulf region and promote closer ties with the GCC states.

The EU delegation office will also encourage people-to-people interaction and highlight Europe’s cultural and linguistic diversity, promote European higher education and facilitate cooperation in science and technology.

Narbone said, “The change will ensure better cooperation between the EU and Saudi Arabia on the one hand as well as between the EU and the other Gulf states. More changes in terms of services will be visible after the transition phase of the EU comes to an end early next year.

The European Commission has over 130 delegations and representatives around the world. The names of all these changed as of Dec. 1. The EU today accounts for one-third of the world’s total economic production and has also started to play a greater political role in global affairs.

With the treaty coming into force on Tuesday, EU cooperation becomes more efficient, more active, and its action becomes more coherent especially on regional and international issues affecting the two major blocs — the GCC and the EU.

The EU and the GCC have forged close cooperation on all fronts. In 1989 an EU-GCC accord was signed according to which EU and GCC foreign ministers meet once a year.

Source : Arab News

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World Bank unit to list sukuk in Dubai, Bahrain


SUKUK LISTING: International Finance Corp will list its first Islamic bond in Dubai and Bahrain. (Getty Images)

The International Finance Corp, a wing of the World Bank, said on Wednesday it would list its first Islamic bond in the Middle East.

The IFC Hilal Sukuk, a dollar-denominated $100 million issue with a five-year maturity, will be listed with the Nasdaq Dubai and Bahrain stock exchanges, the Washington-based corporation said.

Sukuk is similar to a bond in Western finance but complies with Islamic Shariah law, which forbids charging interest.
"The Sukuk is an innovative way for IFC to create opportunities for Islamic investors who want to make a positive social impact," said IFC chief executive Lars Thunell.

"It also supports the World Bank Groups goals to integrate the Arab world into the global economy and offer greater opportunities for its people," Thunell said.

The IFC is the first non-Islamic financial institution to issue a Sukuk for term funding in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which comprises Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.

It is also the first Sukuk to be listed and cleared in the Gulf Cooperation Council market only, a statement from the corporation said.

The IFC Sukuk, which has been rated Aaa by global credit rating agency Moodys, could be listed on both the exchanges next week, a financial source told AFP.

The bond issue will help develop the regions nascent Sukuk market and encourage other sovereign and corporate issuers to engage with member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the IFC said.

The IFC Sukuk is aimed at supporting a pipeline of Islamic finance projects in key sectors such as health, education and infrastructure.

A separate body will issue the IFC Sukuk and "warehouse" the underlying assets, the IFC said, adding that the syndicate includes HSBC Amanah, Dubai Islamic Bank, Kuwait Finance House Bahrain, and Liquidity Management House.

"We are grateful to the Shariah scholars, our partners at the Dubai and Bahrain exchanges, and the syndicate for guiding us through this complex process, and hope that the model will facilitate the process for other issuers to enter the Sukuk market," IFC Treasurer Nina Shapiro said.

The Sukuk global asset class has a market value of over 200 billion dollars.

IFC issued its first Islamic bond in 2004. That bond, denominated in the Malaysian Ringgit currency, was a 132 million dollars equivalent three-year "bullet" bond.

The IFC formed an Islamic finance working group last year to develop a more strategic approach to Islamic finance activities.

The working group and expansion of IFC field offices in the Middle East and North Africa region have contributed to a committed portfolio of over $190 million in loans and equity in the region, the IFC said.

The global Islamic finance industry has grown rapidly to an almost one trillion dollar industry, reports have said.

But it makes up less than one per cent of world capital, giving it a huge scope for growth.

Source : Arabian Business

Gambia, Iran’s good trade partner: Minister

Tehran, Dec 1, IRNA – The minister of cooperatives said Tuesday that the African country of Gambia is a good trade partner for Iran.

Mohammad Abbasi, head of the Iran-Gambia Joint Commission, made the remarks while talking to IRNA.

He said Gambia is a state playing an effective role in both international and African arenas.

Abbasi added the existing economic potentials in Banjul have led Tehran to plan joint ventures with the African state.

The cooperatives minister also said the two countries are capable of expanding bilateral cooperation in the fields of agriculture and fisheries.

Pilgrimage reunites Indonesian soul mates after long separation

Anwar Al-Sayed

MINA: Two long-lost friends who separated 10 years ago in Indonesia enjoyed a tearful reunion during this year’s Haj. They finally met at the gate of a camp in Mina after learning they would both be performing the pilgrimage the same year.

“We were close friends since childhood and school days. We were like two souls in the same body or like a shadow following the other everywhere,” said Rita, one of the friends who had moved to the United States.

“So many times we stopped at the doorstep sharing sad and happy times. We ate the same food, wore the same clothes, played together and shopped together. We had no idea that we were going to separate one day.

“I wish time would stop at this moment and we would never separate but this is life and each one of us will go our own way as soon as Haj is over.”

Crying tears of joy, the other friend Aly interrupted, thanking the Haj season for bringing them together. She had remained in Indonesian capital Jakarta when they separated.

“Since I came to know she would also be doing Haj this year, I was counting the days and the hours to see her. I consider our performance of the pilgrimage in the same year further proof that we are soul mates. Despite the long distance separating us, we thought about the same thing at the same time.”

Aly said the Qur’an mentions Haj as an occasion to gaining rewards in the hereafter and at the same time looking after one’s other interests. “Within these other interests comes my meeting with my friend.”

Aly added Rita had become even more beautiful but had put on a little weight, perhaps due to the fact she was living in the US.

“However, I am sure that her heart is still clean and big. She is still a sentimental woman who loves all people. I know we will be together for only a few days before Haj is over but I was so happy that Haj gave us this time together.”

The friends said they would go to the Grand Mosque together for prayer and never leave each other until it was time to go home.

Source : Arab News