Monthly Archives: April 2012

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A super solar storm may hit the earth between 2012 and 2013 badly affecting telecommunications, electricity and aviation.

By JEDDAH: NADIM AL- HAMID & IBRAHIM NAFFEE ARAB NEWS STAFF

Published: Apr 27, 2012 00:39 Updated: Apr 29, 2012 16:55

Astronomical experts have expressed their fears of a predicted solar storm’s negative impact on telecommunications, technology, electricity and aviation.  There are real fears of a super solar storm that may hit the Earth between 2012 and 2013.

The Astronomical Society in Jeddah confirmed a super solar storm will hit the Earth at the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013. The greatest impact of this storm will be on the communications sector.

“It is expected at the beginning of the new solar circle, which represents an increase in sunspots on the sun’s surface. The sunspots usually have tremendous activity resulting from the interactions of sunspots with each other. These interactions generate a solar explosion that releases a massive storm into space. The storm will be earth-bound and will hit the earth’s magnetic field. It generates either the phenomenon of ‘Aurora Borealis’ or the so-called ‘North damage.’ This phenomenon can penetrate the radio waves. However, it all depends on the force of the solar explosion,” Majed Abu Zahra, president of The Astronomical Society in Jeddah, told Arab News.

“The consequences of this storm will affect the telecommunications, technical and electricity sectors. In March 1989, when the sun was at the top of its activity it launched streams of massive X-ray, and ultraviolet radiation reached the upper layer of the earth’s atmosphere with charged positive protons and negative electrons that led to heating of the upper layer and expanding it into the external space, affecting satellites moving in low orbits,” said Abu Zahra.

“The phenomenon of ‘Aurora Borealis’ can result in a temporary interruption of the wireless communication (radio waves). However, this phenomenon has no direct effect on the human life as the Earth is surrounded by the atmosphere and magnetic fields, but the real danger is to astronauts outside the Earth’s atmosphere if they do not take the necessary safety precautions,” added Abu Zahra.

The society’s website is updating its warning that there may be super solar storms hitting the earth and may disrupt electronic devices.

“The food trucks will no longer be able to supply stores with food. The cell phones and computers also will no longer work. Without power from the grid most factories will no longer work. Within three days or so, food that’s in your local store will be gone. Since most cars and trucks today require electronic ignition to work, most vehicles will likely not work. However non-electric trains most likely would continue to work,” according to the website.

“There are suggested mechanisms by which solar variations may have an effect on climate. The first is solar irradiance changes directly affecting the climate. This is generally considered to be a minor effect, as the amplitudes of the variations in solar irradiance are much too small to have a significant effect. Secondly, there are variations in the ultraviolet component. The UV component varies by more than the total, so if UV were for some (as yet unknown) reason having a disproportionate effect, this might explain a larger solar signal in climate,” Dr. Zaki Al-Mustafa, president of the Astronomy department in King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) told Arab News.

However, the fears of the solar storm’s negative impact on the commercial sectors might push insurance companies to increase security according to the size of risk. At the same time, insurance companies name such phenomena as “acts of God” which means it is outside insurance coverage, according to industry experts.

“The insurance companies do not cover climate change losses. However, the aviation sector is already insured by the insurance companies. If there is a possibility of a huge risk, the insurance companies will increase the security guards’ value,” Ibrahim Youssef Al-Ramel, former member of the insurance committee of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry told Arab News.

The aviation sector will be the biggest loser due to the solar storm’s negative impact on the communications sector. However, there are many commercial sectors that will also be affected. Estimated losses may reach more than $1 billion, according to economic experts.

“The governments usually play a big role to compensate the losses resulting from climate changes as insurance companies cannot compensate these losses. However, no one can estimate the value of losses,” Yaseen Al- Jeffri, economic analyst, told Arab News.

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Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah and South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies sign the minutes of the Fourth Saudi Arabian African Joint Committee held at the Royal Conference Palace in Riyadh on Sunday. (AN photo by Khalid Khameez)

By MD RASOOLDEEN | ARAB NEWS STAFF

Published: Apr 29, 2012 23:34 Updated: Apr 29, 2012 23:34

RIYADH: The Kingdom and South Africa pledged yesterday to enhance their bilateral trade volume from SR20 billion to SR30 billion during the coming five years. This was announced at the conclusion of the Fourth Saudi Arabian African Joint Committee at the Royal Conference Palace in Riyadh.

The minutes of the joint committee was signed by Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah and South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

The signed document included recommendations to develop bilateral trade between the two countries and increase the volume of trade between the Kingdom and South Africa. The minutes called upon the South African investors to take part in the development of mining industry in the Kingdom.

The committee also stressed the importance of agro-processing, petrochemical and manufacturing of cars and urged the competent authorities of both countries to chalk out a plan for the future to strengthen cooperation in the field of tourism by easing the entry visa procedures between the two countries and to help exchange of information between the businessmen of the two countries.

It was said in the minutes that the Saudi side is ready to conclude an agreement for the promotion and protection of investments between the two countries and sign an accord with South Africa for a technical cooperation in the field of specifications and standards. The committee called upon the competent authorities of both countries to explore the possibility of cooperation in new areas such as agricultural cooperatives, and registration of Arabian horses and vaccines.

The two parties agreed to set up a Saudi Arabia South Africa Holding (SASAH) in Riyadh to develop business in agriculture, mining and petrochemicals.

Making his remarks at the conclusion of the agreement, Al-Rabiah said the two parties have agreed to promote cooperation in several areas targeting to increase the volume of bilateral trade and investment in the two countries. “It will also increase the volume of industrial cooperation and the exchange of expertise in the sectors of mining, defense, health and other various sectors, “he added.

Expressing confidence in the economy of South Africa, the minister said the Kingdom enjoys a vibrant economy and the combined efforts of the two sound economies would take the bilateral trade to new heights. He also pointed out that the current SR20 billion mark in the bilateral trade between the two countries is not adequate compared to the trade potentials of the two countries. Therefore, he added that the volume has to be doubled with concerted cooperation between the two countries.

Potential areas include agriculture, industry, mining and cooperation in the areas of defense and exports and imports of products in both countries. He also said that there is a need for both countries to address the trade imbalance between the two countries. The two-way trade is currently in favor of the Kingdom due to its large export volume of Saudi oil products and petrochemicals and other industrial goods to the value of SR18.5 billion. The exports from South Africa to the Kingdom are only SR1.5 billion.

Responding to Al-Rabiah’s speech, the visiting minister Davies said that the two countries have great trade potentials and they can enter into new joint ventures both in the Kingdom as well as in South Africa.

Describing Saudi Arabia as the first trade partner in the region, Davies also expressed his country’s interest to import more oil from the Kingdom.

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Jeddah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Majed opens a Qur’an exhibition at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah on Sunday. (SPA)

By JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS

Published: Apr 30, 2012 00:05 Updated: Apr 30, 2012 00:07

Jeddah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Majed highlighted the role of parents and family members in encouraging their children to memorize the Holy Qur’an as well as in conducting Qur’an competition among themselves in front of family members.

“Memorization of the holy book would enable kids to develop their intellectual capacities and enhance their grasping power to a great extent. This would also help them to acquire qualities like sound judgment, ability for time management and using it judiciously,” he said while urging parents to motivate children to memorize the Qur’an from the early stages of their lives.

The governor was speaking at the concluding ceremony of the Holy Qur’an competition for students of King Abdulaziz University (KAU). He gave away prizes worth a total of SR 1 million to the winners at the function held at KAU’s King Faisal Conference Hall. Three hundred and eighty students, both boys and girls, participated in the four categories of the competition, organized by the university’s Qur’an Studies Department.

The governor also opened an exhibition on Qur’an on the sidelines of the competition and toured various pavilions, the Saudi Press Agency reported. Prince Mishaal watched a documentary film featuring the department’s activities and achievements. Several university officials, including its President Osama Tayeb attended the event.

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By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 
RIYADH

A government-run Saudi Arabian newspaper reports that for the first time in the conservative Muslim country, women will be allowed to attend soccer matches in one of the country’s stadiums.

Al-Sharq newspaper on Saturday quoted unnamed officials as saying that women will be able to watch the matches in a new facility that will be completed in 2014 in the western port city of Jeddah.

The officials say that the new stadium will include a family section with private cabins and balconies for women who wish to attend the games.

Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Islam prohibits unrelated men and women from mingling. Women and men in Saudi Arabia remain highly segregated and are restricted in how they are allowed to mix in public.

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Saudi Arabia has set up a ministerial committee to consider allowing women’s sports clubs, al-Watan daily newspaper reported on Saturday, despite opposition to female exercise from religious conservatives.

Abdullah al-Zamil, a senior official from the General Presidency of Youth Welfare, the top Saudi sporting body, said the committee was being formed to end the “chaos” surrounding women’s sports clubs which are effectively unregulated, Watan reported.

“The mission of the committee is focused on building a system for these clubs,” the newspaper, owned by a member of the Saudi royal family, reported Zamil as saying.

In the austere desert kingdom, powerful clerics have long argued against women playing sports or doing physical exercise, forcing female gyms to be designated as expensive “health centers.”

 Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah United team participated in a basketball match against a Malaysian team in Kuala Lampur in February this year. (Reuters)

State-run girls schools are banned from doing sports, but private girls schools are allowed to offer sports classes.

The General Presidency of Youth Welfare only regulates male clubs and its head was recently quoted saying he would not endorse Saudi women athletes at the 2012 Olympics.

Human Rights Watch has called on the International Olympic Committee to bar the kingdom from the London games unless it fields a woman athlete.

The most likely woman candidate to compete under the Saudi flag, equestrian Dalma Malhas, represented the kingdom at the junior Olympics in Singapore in 2010, but without official support or recognition.

Saudi women are barred from driving and need the permission of a close male relative to work, travel or open a bank account, but King Abdullah last year said they could vote in municipal elections, the country’s only public polls.

Saudi Arabia’s only female deputy minister, Noura al-Fayez, has written to HRW saying there is a plan to introduce physical education at girls’ state schools.

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A Saudi man accepted the advice of a prominent religious scholar on Saturday and divorced his wife during a live radio program tackling marital issues. 

The man phoned the program to complain to Sheikh Ghazi al-Shammari that his wife disobeyed him by travelling without his approval from the Saudi port city of Jeddah to the capital Riyadh for a business conference.

The unnamed man said his wife “offended his manhood.”

He told Shammari that before his marriage he had accepted his wife’s demands to work on condition that work would not interfere with their marital life.

Shammari advised the man to divorce his wife as a punitive measure for “committing such a mistake against her home and husband.”

The husband immediately heeded the advice and divorced her during the live program although Shammari advised him to remarry her if she repents.

Shammari told Al Arabiya that the man’s story was enough for him to issue the advice and stressed that he was convinced his advice was legitimate and not damaging to marital relations.

“The husband called me in my program this afternoon and told me that he was financially capable and did not want his wife to work and that he is having problems with her about this issue for more than 10 years and that he has been patient for long. But the issue has developed to the extent that she would travel without his approval,” Shammari said.

“He was surprised that she sent him a text message from the airport telling him that she was traveling alone… and this is why I advised him to divorce her because she was not obeying her husband, a matter that is very important in Islam.”

“I did not make a mistake with my advice to the man, because what the wife did, travelling without his consent from Jeddah to Riyadh, is a serious matter and a cause for doubt,” He said.

“Such a wife is suspicious because she insisted to travel alone to Riyadh and without ample reason,” the scholar said. I did not rush with the advice because I saw that the issue was dangerous and we should not remain silent more about it.”

(Khaled Shaea contributed to this article from Riyadh.)

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Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah will lay the foundation for the second phase of the university cities’ project worth SR81.5 billion ($21.73 billion) tomorrow.

He will also inaugurates the first phase of the project in a number of regions and governorates, a Saudi Press Agency report said. The king will launch new campuses of Jazan, Taif, Tabuk, Hail, Baha, Najran, Al-Jouf, Majmaa and Shaqra universities, Prince Salman University in Al-Kharj, and Northern Province University, an Arab News report quoting Higher Education Minister Khaled Al-Anqari said.

Other higher education facilities to be opened by the king are: King Abdulaziz University branch in North Jeddah, KAU branch in Rabigh, King Abdullah City for Girls at Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University, the new campus for girls at King Saud University and the girls’ colleges complex at Umm Al-Qura University, it said.

The second phase covers 16 university campuses, including 166 new colleges, 161 support service projects, 10,841 housing units and 12 university hospitals with 3,800 beds, the report said.

The new university projects will bring about an educational renaissance in the Kingdom and boost its progress and prosperity, the minister said. The number of government universities in the Kingdom jumped from 15 in 2004 to 32. During the same period the number of colleges rose from 314 to 452, teaching staff to 47,997, the report added.

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F-15 fighter jets of the US Air Force are shown in this file picture.

By RIYADH: ARAB NEWS

Published: Apr 29, 2012 23:09 Updated: Apr 29, 2012 23:21

JEDDAH: A Saudi Arabian F-15 warplane has crashed during a training mission in the northwest of the Kingdom, but its pilot was able to eject safely, the official SPA news agency reported yesterday quoting an official source at the Defense Ministry.

The Royal Saudi Air Force jet went down on Saturday in the Tabuk region, the agency said, adding that an investigation had begun to determine the cause of the crash.

The jet was the fourth to crash in Tabuk in the last four months.

On Dec. 20, an Saudi air force Hawk jet on a training mission crashed after it collided with a bird. Probers said collision with the bird led to a malfunction in one of the jet’s engines. The pilot managed to eject safely.

On January 14, a Mirage aircraft of the French Air force collided with an F-15 aircraft of the Saudi Royal Air Force during a joint maneuver in Tabuk.

Pilots of both planes parachuted safely to the ground, said the report, quoting a statement issued by the Defense Ministry.

 

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A view of Eastern Region-based Saudi Aramco
(MENAFN – Arab News) Brute, desert summer is just round the corner. Temperatures are soaring – in more than one ways. And Saudi Arabia, the global gas station needs to be prepared. This summer, two specific challenges are to be met – as far as energy is concerned. Not only would it be required to meet the usual, galloping, domestic summer energy requirements, continue uninterrupted power supply to its cities and far-flung villages, but Riyadh may also have to rise up to the occasion – and plug the global gap – in case the imbroglio between West and Iran takes a real ugly turn.

Saudi Arabia is committed on both counts!

Steps are in making. Reports are creeping in: Saudi Arabia is building up crude oil inventories now, as the domestic demand is still below the peak and the Iran embargo is not fully in place. This appears in preparation for the worst and offset the risks of “limited” effective spare production capacity, when demand is at peak, Goldman Sachs said in a report last week.

In a note to clients, Goldman Sachs cited a crude oil inventory build of 35.4 million barrels in the period December-February, based on numbers from the Joint Organizations Data Initiative. The reason this increased production was not pooled into exports, Goldman Sachs analysts argued, is grounded in an anticipation of “a substantial increase” in demand that cannot be covered by “simply raising production levels” then.

At a time when each barrel of oil produced and exported by the Kingdom is being watched by crude pundits, as EU sanctions against Iran loom large, the impact of the anticipated rise in Saudi domestic consumption in the coming high demand summer months has taken on an added dimension.

The logic behind the build-up in stocks, which amount to 390,000 barrels per day (bpd) in that period, is primarily in preparation for the strains of peak domestic demand that the summer heat brings to the Kingdom, the report argued. In the past, oil-fired power generation often took its toll on Saudi Arabia’s export volumes. With the passage of time, the situation could become more pronounced, one can’t deny.

There is now a growing concern in the energy fraternity both inside and outside the Kingdom that if the domestic consumption continues to go up and up – rather exponentially – it may impact the export capacity of the Kingdom. Saudi Aramco too has been warning that Saudi Arabia’s crude export capacity could fall by about 3 million bpd to under 7 million bpd by 2028 unless the domestic energy demand growth is checked. And this carries tremendous impact on the global demand-supply balance too.

The London-based Chatham House think tank warned last December that Saudi Arabia’s place in the world market was threatened by “unrestrained domestic fuel consumption,” which it emphasized, was unsustainable. “The world’s largest exporter of oil is consuming so much energy at home that its ability to play a stabilizing role in world oil markets is at stake,” Chatham House warned in the report entitled “Burning Oil to Keep Cool, the Hidden Energy Crisis in Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia’s demand for its own oil and gas is growing at around 7 percent per year. At this rate of growth, national consumption will have doubled in a decade,” its authors said. Goldman Sachs analysts too pointed out in the above mentioned report that “the implied direct crude burn has grown from 140 thousand bpd in 2003 to 520 thousand bpd in 2011 as Saudi natural gas production growth failed to keep pace with rising electricity demand.”

Indeed the desert summer is brute. It requires extraordinary steps to cool down temperatures at our homes, malls and offices. But inefficiency and wastage in the entire system is also a reality. We all burn this scarce and limited asset inefficiently. And this cannot be allowed to continue at this pace, most agree. Steps are hence in the pipeline.

“Warnings last year about what would happen to Saudi oil exports if current levels of domestic usage were left unchecked were taken as fact. But we are not leaving domestic energy consumption unchecked,” Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi told a conference earlier this year. Saudi Arabia is definitely acting to keep its place as the global gas station intact.

In its report on April 14, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast the total Saudi consumption to see a “notable deceleration” this year, with direct crude burn forecast to decline by roughly 100,000 bpd from an average of 660,000 in the April-September peak period in 2011.

Saudi Arabia’s domestic consumption of crude oil rose 4 percent in 2011 from a year earlier, JODI had reported. The world’s largest crude exporter used 661.2 million barrels of oil last year, compared with 636.4 million barrels in 2010, JODI website said on Feb. 19. That’s about a fifth of its total output of 3.39 billion barrels last year.

One alternative is to burn gas for utilities and free crude for exports. Yet gas has been in short supply and the volume of associated gas available for burning is directly dependent on crude export. The emphasis, in recent years has thus been on tapping non-associated gas. The Ministry of Petroleum and Saudi Aramco have announced a $9 billion strategy to add 50 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of non-associated reserves by 2016 through new discoveries. Only last week it had increased production capacity at Karan, the offshore natural-gas project ahead of schedule apparently to help out the summer squeeze. Aramco also plans to start output at the Hasbah and Arabia fields in 2014.

And the emphasis on renewable is also growing. Recently a pilot project to use solar power instead of fuel for water desalination was completed. Plans are also afoot to expand the use of solar-powered generators for utilities too. Although no official targets for generation of renewable seem around, yet recent Saudi Aramco estimates put this at 7-10 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Yet pricing remains an issue in exploring the gas assets. Exploitation of gas from the new non-associated gas projects will be more expensive because of the special processes and technology needed to extract gas in more difficult – offshore, and “tight” (embedded in rock) – geological conditions and to treat sour gas (i.e. with high hydrogen sulphide content). Hence the incentive to exploit the gas reserves currently remains limited. Even Saudi Aramco CEO Khaled Al-Falih has been pointing to this anomaly for some time now.

Providing energy at affordable levels is a prime concern all around, but that should not breed inefficiency. For a sustainable tomorrow that needs to be taken care of.

A major issue seems at hand – none can deny!

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A woman uses her mobile phone to take a picture during the Gulf youth conference in Riyadh, Saturday. — AP

By Maher Abbas
Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) must work “hard” toward economic and political union to ensure the safety and prosperity of its people, said Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Institute of Diplomatic Studies.
Prince Saud made the comments in a speech here Saturday delivered on his behalf by Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the opening day of “The Conference of Gulf Youth: Arab Gulf States — From Cooperation to Union” organized by the Institute of Diplomatic Studies.
The minister said that the region is facing many economic, political and social challenges. These include the “escalation of confrontation between Iran and the international community over its nuclear program, its constant provocation of GCC countries in particular, the continued suffering of the Palestinian people” and the Arab Spring.
“All these developments require us to pause for reflection and [develop a] strong will to deal with them in the interest of GCC states … territorial integrity, civil peace, stability and growth.”
“These threats require hard work from the GCC countries to shift from the current formula of cooperation to a union formula acceptable to the six countries to ensure their security and stability, and the durability of their economies.”
Prince Saud said the Arab Gulf region is important “due to its strategic location and large reserves of oil and gas, which are the most important sources of energy in the world”. He said it was not possible to deal with these challenges as individual states. Prince Saud said it was King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, who first “recognized the importance of the transition” from cooperation to a union
in his opening address to the 32nd GCC summit in Riyadh in December last year.
He said the proposal was subsequently formally adopted by the summit and a program of action was formulated, with the results forwarded to the next consultative summit. Prince Saud said a union would see the formation of a GCC supreme body to coordinate foreign policy decisions to benefit all member nations. “When the six GCC states collectively negotiate with other states in a federal structure, this will strengthen the bargaining power of our countries.”
He said defense integration was crucial to “guarantee the security of the GCC states as an alternative to a defense policy based on temporary alliances”.
On the economic front, union will result in a powerful economic bloc with a Gross Domestic Product, according to 2011 figures, of more than $1.4 trillion and a single market of 42 million people. Prince Saud said young people have an important role to play because more than 65 percent are under the age of 30 in the GCC. __

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LONDON – Prince Mohammad Bin Nawaf, Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom, has stressed that the six-day visit of Dr. Mohammed Al-Essa, Minister of Justice, to Britain created a solid platform for bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
The ambassador pointed out that the meetings provided an opportunity to brief British officials on the legal, administrative, procedural and humanitarian dimensions of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Project for the Development of Judiciary Sector.
“These talks have given British specialists and officials the opportunity to know about the independence of Saudi Judiciary and to correct misconceptions about some draft laws in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the belief that they will be used to suppress freedom of expression while they are mainly directed against terrorist threats, which are global issues and will remain a serious challenge facing all governments,” the ambassador said.
He said Saudi Arabia is committed to respecting human rights in accordance with the Islamic Shariah, which is the basis of legal systems in the Kingdom.
All adults stand before the justice of the tolerant Islamic Shariah that is equal for citizens and residents, he added. – SG/SPA __

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UAE property stocks rose yesterday after three developers posted higher earnings but the country’s bourses ended mixed, while Egypt’s benchmark slipped after Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Cairo.

In Abu Dhabi, Aldar Properties climbed 4.4% to a two-week high.
The developer’s quarterly net profit more than doubled, beating analysts’ estimates.
Rival Sorouh Real Estate, which is merger talks with Aldar, gained 1.7% after posting a 30-percent rise in earnings, which were shy of forecasts.
Meanwhile, Dubai’s bellwether Emaar Properties advanced 0.3% after its first-quarter profit jumped 44%.
Abu Dhabi’s index finished 0.2% higher while Dubai’s benchmark fell 0.8%, its eighth decline in 10 sessions to trim its 2012 gains to 21.1%.
Builder Arabtec was the main drag, falling 4.7% as investors booked recent gains.
In Saudi Arabia, the index declined 0.7% as investors booked profits from Saturday’s gains, awaiting new catalysts to lift the market.
In Egypt, the benchmark slipped 0.3%, on concerns $2.7bn in financial aid pledged by Saudi Arabia could be delayed after Riyadh withdrew its envoy following protests at its embassy against the kingdom’s arrest of an Egyptian lawyer.
“We were awaiting the injection from Saudi Arabia, which may now be delayed, and that could delay other money,” said Osama Mourad, CEO of Arab Finance Brokerage. “That money seemed somehow easier to secure because of the emotional and political ties.”
In Oman, the index climbed 0.5%, halting a six-session losing streak as bargain hunters returned.
Elsewhere in the Gulf, Kuwait’s index ended flat 6,337 points and Bahrain’s measure gained 0.3% at 1,149 points.

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AFP Photo / Karim Sahib

TAGS: ReligionHuman rightsLaw

 

Ever travelled to a nearby city on your own? In Saudi Arabia, this could be grounds for divorce. A Saudi man broke up with his wife because she “disobeyed” him by going on a business trip without his consent.

The man phoned a radio program dealing with marital problems to complain about his wife to host Sheikh Ghazi al-Shammari, a prominent Islamic scholar.  The unnamed man said his wife “offended his manhood” by traveling from the Saudi port city of Jeddah to the capital Riyadh for a business conference, alone and without his approval.

Al-Shammari concluded that the man had to divorce his wife.

Such a wife is suspicious because she insisted to travel alone to Riyadh and without ample reason,” Al-Shammari later said, as quoted by Al-Arabiya. “I did not rush with the advice because I saw that the issue was dangerous and that we should not remain silent more about it.

The caller decided to heed the advice, and divorced his wife of ten years – during the live broadcast. Al-Shammari said the man should consider remarrying her if she repents for her actions.

For a man the procedure couldn’t be easier. All he has to do is say he is divorcing his wife three times, and just three weeks ago a Saudi man divorced his wife via SMS. He then called two of his relatives to confirm the split. A Saudi court then quickly confirmed the divorce by summoning the two relatives to affirm the husband’s intention.

Saudi women, however, are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to getting a divorce. They have to endure a tedious court process, which can drag on for months. They can opt to hasten the process by filing a Kuhla lawsuit instead, but that involves paying back dowries. The proceedings are further complicated by the fact that the husband is often unwilling to attend hearings. Judges are usually reluctant to issue rulings if the husband doesn’t pay a visit to the court, though they do have a right to issue a police order to force the husband to attend.

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of divorce, with over 18,765 divorce cases recorded in 2010. This means one divorce every half an hour, local expert Awad al-Harbi estimates.

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Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah and South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies discuss matters of mutual interest on the sidelines of the Saudi Arabia-South African Business Council meeting in Riyadh.

By MD RASOOLDEEN | ARAB NEWS STAFF

Published: Apr 29, 2012 02:37 Updated: Apr 29, 2012 02:37

RIYADH: With the setting up of a Saudi Arabia South Africa Holding (SASAH) in Riyadh yesterday, a strategic partnership between the two countries has taken shape.

The new venture was launched during the Fourth Saudi Arabian African Joint Committee held in Riyadh in the presence of Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah and South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

South African Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Ebrahim Ebrahim and South African Ambassador in Riyadh Sadick Jaafer were also present at the ceremony.

The launching ceremony was followed by the meeting of the Saudi-South African Business Council held at the headquarters of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Al-Rabiah said: “The meeting of the joint committee is part of the constructive dialogue that binds the Kingdom and South Africa to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation and push the level of current trade, which reached SR19.7 billion last year.

Saudi exports to South Africa have reached SR18.2 billion, while imports from South Africa to the Kingdom had reached SR1.5 billion.

Al-Rabiah stressed the need for activation of bilateral agreements signed between the two countries. Al-Rabiah added that the political relations between the two friendly countries would contribute to strengthening bilateral cooperation in economy, trade and investment.

Davies expressed confidence that the keenness of the two governments on the continuity of meetings of the joint committee is a sign of sincere desire to strengthen their current cooperation.

During the business council meeting, the Saudi team was led by Co-Chairman of the Saudi-South Africa Business Council Said Jubran Al-Qahtani, while the visiting team was headed by Iqbal Surve, the council’s co-chairman.

Davies was also present at the council’s meeting.

Secretary General of the Council of Saudi Chambers Fahad Al-Sultan made the opening remarks, while Abdullah Al-Hazani gave a presentation on National Industrial Clusters Development Program. Emad Sandawi from Maaden also told the visiting delegates of the investment opportunities available in his company.

Besides the key officials, representatives from 17 African companies formed the visiting delegation from South Africa.

Later in the evening, the two leaders signed the agreement at the headquarters of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) here.

Announcing the launch of the new company, Al-Qahtani said SASAH was a special purpose vehicle to enhance business activities between the two consortiums from both Countries and to improve and enhance the business relationship between Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

“It will help the two countries to invest in profitable business ventures and facilitate joint ventures between two countries,” he noted.

The company will be a legally registered entity in their respective countries and fulfill the legal requirements of investment authorities and tax regimes of both countries. It may become a major shareholder in some strategic joint ventures.

The new company is entitled for free 5 percent equity in any joint venture initiated by SASAH.

“Creating such a legal entity to create co-investment represents a historic opportunity for the business communities of the two countries to promote their business and diversify their investments,” Al-Qahtani said.

Surve said the SASAH aims to create mutual business opportunities in mining, petrochemical and agriculture. “We are excited by the magnitude of the economic development plans of the Saudi government relating to the diversification of its economy which will embrace private sector partnership too,” he added.

Describing the initial activities of the new company, Adnaan Grimsel consultant to the Saudi-South African Business Council said the initial capital of SR10 million would be utilized to conduct the bankable feasibility studies for the initially identified sectors such as agriculture, mining and petrochemical downstream industries.

“SASAH aims to be a leading blue chip profitable investment company in the region capitalizing on the strength of Saudi Arabian and South African economies,” Grimsel said, adding that the two countries are keen on developing a strategic relationship to enhance the business opportunities between two countries, which has resulted in the formation of this new venture.

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PRAGUE – An oil price of $100 per barrel would provide the right balance for both consumers and producers, Saudi Arabian Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said in an interview for the public Czech Television aired Thursday.
“The target of $100 is good both for producers, consumers and the oil industry. I think this is a price that is good for everyone. So this is our target,” Al-Assaf said.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi in January identified $100 a barrel as a favorable oil price for an average of crudes worldwide but since then prices have risen sharply.
Al-Assaf said there was no fundamental imbalance of supply and demand on the oil market and prices had been driven up by speculators and tensions in international relations.
He added Saudi Arabia would not buy European sovereign debt directly, but is helping via providing funds to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“We prefer, like many other countries, to do it through the IMF. That is lending to the IMF in order for the IMF to lend to the countries, because then it will be through a program between the IMF and the specific countries,” he said.
Oil prices retreated Friday as a raft of bad news for Spain’s indebted economy raised concerns about weak demand for energy, traders said.
New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in June fell 40 cents to $104.15 a barrel.
Brent North Sea crude for June shed 43 cents to $119.49 a barrel approaching midday in London.
“The eurozone trouble is causing a lot of worry about demand,” said Newedge broker analyst Ken Hasegawa.
S&P Thursday cut Spain’s rating by two notches to BBB-plus and added a negative outlook, saying it expected the economy to shrink this year and next. – Reuters

0 20

Oil tankers able to haul a combined 11.1 million barrels a day went to the Saudi Arabian crude- export terminal at Ras Tanura in the latest week, ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Vessels with a combined capacity of 10.6 million deadweight tons arrived at the port in the week to April 21, compared with 11.3 million tons a week earlier, the data show. To estimate that tonnage in terms of barrels a day, the figure was multiplied by 7.33 to calculate the total barrels and then divided by seven, the number of days in the period.

Some of the ships may not have loaded all their cargoes at Ras Tanura, the data show. China will be the largest recipient, followed by South Korea. The Ras Tanura complex, including Ras al-Ju’aymah, is the world’s biggest crude terminal, according to the website of state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco.

The first of the following tables lists by country the combined deadweight tonnage of tankers that called at Ras Tanura in the latest week, based on signals from the ships’ captains. The second gives weekly total tonnage for tankers calling at the terminal this year.

                    Week to                       Week to
                    April 21                      April 14
Country             Deadweight     Share (%)      Share (%)
China                1,772,037     16.7           16.2
South Korea          1,218,431     11.5            9.2
Japan                1,196,731     11.3           13.5
India                  785,517      7.4            3.8
U.S.                   780,497      7.4            5.5
South Africa           616,770      5.8            6.9
Saudi Arabia           615,698      5.8            9.0
Singapore              603,424      5.7           10.8
Philippines            317,800      3.0           --
Thailand               309,960      2.9            2.7
Oman                   309,741      2.9           --
Qatar                  281,501      2.7           --
U.A.E.                 281,050      2.6            6.3
Malaysia               179,589      1.7            2.8
France                 158,583      1.5           --
Bangladesh             106,547      1.0           --
Das Island             106,005      1.0           --
Pakistan                73,400      0.7           --
Unspecified            893,700      8.4            2.6
Total               10,606,981

                     Total DWT      Total barrels a day
Week ended           (Million)      (Million)
April 14             11.3           11.8
April  7              9.71          10.2
March 31              6.31           6.61
March 24              9.50           9.95
March 17              8.46           8.86
March 10              8.67           9.08
March  3              6.84           7.16
Feb.  25              6.47           6.77
Feb.  18              9.63          10.1
Feb.  11              9.02           9.45
Feb.   4              7.41           7.76
Jan.  28             10.1           10.6
Jan.  21              8.29           8.68
Jan.  14              7.83           8.2
Jan.   7              8.88           9.3

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Sheridan in London at rsheridan6@bloomberg.net

0 11

(MENAFN – Arab News) Egyptians have a perceived notion that they once had a vital role in the political say of the Arab and Middle East’s affairs, and this role was diminished or even completely lost to the emerging political and economic influence of the Arabian Gulf countries (GCC), specifically, Saudi Arabia.

While in reality, Egypt never had that alleged role, it is only a perception. However, a perception is reality that drives that unexplainable behavior of Egyptians toward Saudi government and its people. Egyptians claim that President Gamal Abdel Nasser made that political glory and was lost to Gulf countries because of oil. But oil in Saudi Arabia was discovered in the early 1940s before Gamal become president of Egypt in 1953.

Egypt was under a combined rule of Mohammad Ali royal family and British rule for centuries which was ended by the Free Officers Movement in 1953. Gamal and his officers ascended to power, with Gamal as a president. Egyptian historians mark Gamal’s reign as the heydays of Egypt’s vital role in this region.

Any country in the world cannot have a viable political role in its geographical sphere without possessing the primary elements of power (e. g., military, economy, knowledge and culture, research and technology, natural resources, population, and geography). Egypt, on the contrary, had almost all elements of weakness. It had agricultural-based economy, had no technological and knowledge-based industry, had almost 90 percent illiteracy rate among its population, and, of course, never had a superpower military capability.

The only power Egypt once has had is the “soft power,” specifically the propaganda machine and translated literary production in the areas of humanities and social sciences. Again, Egypt lost their soft power to Gulf countries either in the fields of media or literary production, particularly to Saudi Arabia (MBC, Al Arabiya, and other media outlets), Qatar (Al Jazeera), and United Arab Emirates.

However, Egyptians, then, used their powerful propaganda machine effectively (Arab Voice and other radio stations, as well as film production), presenting the Egyptian society as a progressive and promoting president Gamal as the undisputed leader of the Middle East, especially in the eyes of Egyptian masses. This loud mouthpiece aggrandized Gamal, and he in turn internalized the role of the only Arab leader in the Middle East, making speeches on radio and television with a strut tone and sometimes belittling Arab leaders.

Gamal’s condescending behavior appealed to the majority of Egyptians, and they likewise internalized the role as if they were subjects of a superpower nation. This national pride was picked up early by Israel and it decided to crush it. In 1976, Israel made a surprise attack on Egyptian fighter aircraft while they were on the ground or in their bunkers, and that led Gamal to declare his resignation on national television.

What remained from Gamal’s era in the conscious of most Egyptians is that Egypt is a superpower country like the United States, or even Israel. It is a self-deceiving perception of power, or aspired power that has no foundation whatsoever on the ground.

While Egypt is seeking to be a superpower in the Middle East, it presently has a military capability that is equivalent to Saudi Arabia’s militarily capability or United Arab Emirates with a variable degree, and Egypt economically is equivalent to Tunisia, Morocco, or Oman. Thus, Egypt cannot grow more than a middle-size country.

On the other hand, oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in the early 1940s and commercial production started in 1945, and that was way before Gamal ascended to power in Egypt. Obviously, oil facilitated the primary elements of power, and right from the start Saudi Arabia was pulling the strings in the Middle East, and evidently all Egyptian presidents, from Gamal Abdel Nasser up to the current Egyptian administration, visited Riyadh to discuss major political matters concerning the Middle East.

Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia has the primary elements of power to exert an influence in its geographical sphere, including Egypt, this country is not interested in appearing as a leader of the Middle East for its practical reasons, and did not challenge Egypt for this alleged leadership. Egypt, however, deserted its alleged vital role in the politics of the Middle East, and it is, still, vacant.

0 5

During the first quarter of 2012, the major markets across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) reported mixed results in revenue per available room (RevPAR) following mostly positive performance for year-end 2011, according to STR Global.

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, all experienced continued RevPAR improvements during the first quarter of 2012. Despite increases in demand across all but one market, continued supply growth limited RevPAR performances in the other major GCC markets.

“The majority of markets across the GCC have weathered the recent storms fairly well”, said Elizabeth Randall, managing director of STR Global. “We have seen demand growth for most markets in the region, highlighting the stronger underlying fundaments of stability and attractiveness to regional and international visitors. Increasing room inventory has been a dominant factor influencing performance in the past and will continue to do so as the region remains attractive for hotel owners and operators. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are interesting case studies to show how hotel markets can cope with balancing demand and supply”.

Excluding Makkah and Medina, both in Saudi Arabia, Jeddah is the star performer in RevPAR growth for the first quarter. The city benefited from demand growth (+17.3 percent) and a temporary reduction of available rooms as the Westin Jeddah is closed for refurbishment between October 2011 and summer 2012.

Al Khobar saw RevPAR in Q1 2012 increase to SAR414.16 (+18.0 percent), led by occupancy reaching 57.3 percent (+13.4 percent) compared to the previous year. Occupancy growth primarily was driven by increased demand (+21.2 percent) amid fairly low increases in new supply (+6.9 percent), which in previous years increased by double digits. Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh’s supply growth (+11.5 percent) in Q1 2012 outpaced demand (+3.1 percent). This resulted in an occupancy decline of 7.5 percent to 63.2 percent.