News – 2012.05.07

Published: May 7, 2012

SUSRIS Daily News – Excerpts from International Media Reports
/Provided as a service from the Saudi-US Trade Group, Washington, DC/

5.7.12 EDITION

OPEC Says Supply Ample, Speculation Driving Price: PEAK OIL NEWS

5.5.12

Oil supply will be more than sufficient to meet demand this year and beyond, OPEC’s Secretary General said on Thursday, but added the price of fuel is being driven higher by speculation. “There has been no shortage of oil in the market. Producers have been able to meet consumer needs,” Abdullah al-Badri told an energy conference. “We also see this as being the case for the rest of 2012 and the foreseeable future.” Oil prices surged in March to $128 a barrel, the highest level since 2008, because of concern about possible supply shortages. Prices have since fallen back and Brent crude was trading around $118 on Thursday. “Today the price continues to be driven by excessive speculation,” Badri said. OPEC at a meeting in December set a target to produce 30 million barrels per day, settling an argument which broke out in 2011 after Iran and other members opposed a Saudi-led plan to raise OPEC’s production ceiling.

Saudi Telecom to reach 500,000 homes with fiber in 2012: GULF BASE

5.7.12

Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) aims to connect 500,000 homes in the Kingdom with optical fiber for high-speed broadband, but a lack of spectrum is limiting the adoption of next-generation mobile services, a top executive said. Saudi Arabia’s 26.5 million people had 1.95 million fixed broadband subscriptions at the end of 2011, according to the telecoms regulator, while of these only 18,500 are high-speed fiber-to-the-home (FFTH) connections, Informa Telecoms and Media estimates. “With FTTH, we’re looking to pass 500,000 homes by the end of this year and go up to 2 million in 2013,” Jameel Al-Molhem, Saudi Telecom chief executive for Saudi Arabia, told a conference in Dubai. Slumping margins on conventional voice calls have prompted STC and Mobily and Zain Saudi to bet on soaring demand for broadband to bolster income. That strategy seems to be working — STC’s first-quarter profit rose 60 percent, while its mobile broadband revenue was up 145 percent, Bahrain’s Securities & Investment Co. (SICO) wrote in a note. Potential further growth is huge, with only 41 percent of Saudis using the Internet at the end of 2010, according the International Telecommunications Union’s most recent data. Analysts say this relatively low penetration, which is barely half that of the UAE, is partly due to a lack of fixed-line infrastructure in the vast kingdom that is more than twice the size of France and Germany combined.

Saudi Arabia Is The Most Important Market For Gulf Air, Says CEO Samer Majali: ARAB NEWS

Siraj Wahab | 5.7.12

Gulf Air Chief Executive Officer Samer Majali is highly affable, articulate and always a delight to interview. What sets him apart from others is that he is modest, transparent and clearheaded. Seldom does he dodge a difficult question. His penetrating articulation comes from his total focus on the job at hand: that of reviving the fortunes of Bahrain’s national airline.

Following Words with Actions: CROSSROADS ARABIA

John Burgess | 5.4.12

Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice got a new President back in January. He promised then to insure that the members of the organization would ‘prevent vice without committing vice’ and that mistakes would not go unpunished. He’s living up to his word. Asharq Alawsat reports that Sheikh Abdullatif Al Al-Sheikh has suspended two members, at half-pay, for being overly assertive in their quest to quell wrong-doing.

Saudi Women Carve Out Niche For Themselves In Medical Profession: ARAB NEWS

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim | 5.5.12

When the university was established in 1975, it had two campuses. Dammam campus was secondary. The main campus was in Hofuf (Al-Hassa). The two campuses started operating in the academic year 1974/75 and were officially inaugurated by King Khaled on May 24, 1977. The university’s name was King Faisal University. At that time Dammam campus had two colleges. One was in the field of medicine and medical sciences and the other was architecture and planning. It had three centers — English language, computer sciences and publication and translation. Later on, enrollment numbers reached tens of thousands. The Ministry of Higher Education then separated the two campuses and the Dammam campus became the University of Dammam in 2009. Now the University of Dammam covers six cities in the Eastern Province, including Dammam, Jubail, Khafji, Khobar, Nu’Airiya and Qateef. The university now has 24 colleges, 123 departments, 1,414 faculty members and about 25,000 students. To the surprise of many people, Saudi young women have the lion’s share of the number of seats in the field of medicine.

Saudi Arabia Renews Syria Travel Warning: AHRAM ONLINE

AFP | 5.7.12

Saudi Arabia on Sunday renewed a warning to its citizens to leave Syria and not to travel to the country, hit by over a year of deadly unrest. “Due to the continuing deterioration of the security situation in Syria, the foreign ministry renews its warning to all citizens from travelling to Syria,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the SPA state news agency.

Saudi Non-Oil Private Sector Growth Jumps To 9-Mth High: ARAB TIMES

5.6.12

Growth in business activity in Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector jumped to a nine-month high in April, boosted by strong output and new orders, a survey of over 400 private companies published on Saturday showed. The SABB HSBC Saudi Arabia Purchasing Managers’ Index, which measures activity in the manufacturing and services sectors, rose to 60.42 in April from 58.73 in March. The seasonally adjusted index stayed well above the 50-point mark distinguishing growth from contraction. New order growth was the highest since June 2011, at 70.13 points in April against 66.87 in March.

‘Mighty Saudi Economy Getting Stronger’: GULF NEWS

Jasim Ali | 5.7.12

Numerous indications point to the steady growth of the Saudi economy, thereby further strengthening the global position of the kingdoms gross domestic product GDP. These factors include relatively high oil prices, solid oil output, and strong spending.To be sure, nominal or market prices of Saudi Arabias GDP amounted to $577 billion Dh2 trillion in 2011, or number 20 worldwide. This is an exceptional achievement by virtue of placing Saudi GDP ahead of several European economies including those of Sweden, Poland, Belgium, Norway and Austria, to name a few. Undisputedly, Saudi Arabias GDP is the largest in the Arab world. This partly explains the fact that the kingdom is the sole Arab country in the G20, in turn comprising the largest economies in the world.

The Real Challenge Facing Saudi Arabia: ARAB NEWS

Dr. Khalid Alnowaiser | 5.7.12

Faced with the rising threat of a nuclear Iran, Saudi Arabia astutely took advantage of the Arab Spring to undermine this Persian dream enveloped in the name of Islam. The most important strategic step was to try and undermine Iran’s alliance with Syria.  Unfortunately, however, Iran knew (with all due respect to Shiite Muslims everywhere) how to exploit many Shiite followers in order to export the Iranian revolution to other Arab countries. So, Saudi Arabia, as the leading Sunni Muslim country, has had to deal with this Iranian threat.

BAE Systems Near $800 Mln Saudi Hawk Deal: REUTERS

5.7.12

BAE Systems is close to sealing a 500 million pounds ($808 million) deal to sell up to 30 Hawk trainer aircraft to Saudi Arabia, the Sunday Times reported. The sale would provide some welcome relief for the defence giant, which is battling against shrinking defence budgets in Europe and America.

Saudi Arabia Promises To Keep Helping Egypt: GULF NEWS

Zawya Dow Jones | 5.7.12

Riyadh Saudi Arabian finance minister Ebrahim Al Assaf confirmed Saturday that the kingdom will proceed with an aid package for Egypt despite the recent political dispute between the two countries. “We are taking procedures to execute the aid package,” Al Assaf said, in the highest-level confirmation to date that the aid would go ahead. OPINION: ARAB NATIONS NEED ONE ANOTHER: Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt are two key countries in the Arab world and have played a major role in Middle East history and politics. An individual’s act was behind the latest row between the two countries. The individual and those behind him should have been held accountable, not the country as a whole, as the dispute affected bilateral relations, Reem Al-Harmi (Gulf Times) writes.

UK, Korean Firms Picked For Rabigh Project: ARAB NEWS

Reuters | 5.7.12

Saudi Aramco and Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical have issued letters of intent to at least two contractors who submitted the lowest bids to expand a petrochemical complex in Saudi Arabia, moving a step closer to a decision on whether to proceed with the major project, industry sources said. British company Petrofac and South Korea’s GS Engineering and Construction were picked among contractors to be part of building the second phase of the already operational complex in Rabigh on the Red Sea coast of the world’s largest oil exporter.

Saudi Arabia: Abolish Terrorism Court: HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

4.27.12

Saudi Arabia should abolish the Specialized Criminal Court, set up in 2008 to try terrorism cases, but increasingly used to try peaceful dissidents and rights activists on politicized charges and in proceedings that violate the right to a fair trial, Human Rights Watch said today. In April, it sentenced two people to prison for their peaceful activism, and the trials of at least four others are ongoing, in violation of their rights to freedom of expression. “Trying Saudi political activists as terrorists merely because they question abuses of government power demonstrates the lengths the Saudi government will go to suppress dissent,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The trial of peaceful reformers in a terrorism court underlines the political nature of this court.”

Ostrich Speeds Down Busy Saudi Arabian Road: DIGITAL SPY

5.6.12

An ostrich has been filmed running along a busy road in Saudi Arabia. The bird is believed to have escaped from a nearby farm, and was caught on camera by a local resident inside their car as the animal runs alongside the other vehicles.

More News and Commentary from SUSTG

IRAN: 9.5% OF OIL CONTRACTS MAY BE LOST ASIAN BUYERS CUT IMPORTS

Iran is poised to lose at least 192,000 barrels a day of crude-supply contracts, or about 9.5 percent of its global exports, as Asian buyers curb purchases amid western sanctions targeting the nation’s oil trade, Bloomberg reports.

Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd. (MRPL) and Essar Oil Ltd., India’s biggest buyers of Iranian crude, and China International United Petroleum & Chemical Co. have reduced or plan to cut purchases from the Islamic Republic by as much as 15 percent. China and India are Iran’s largest customers. FRENCH ELECTION COULD CHANGE NATIONAL TONE TOWARD IRAN: The elephant in the room in the French election was foreign affairs. Rarely did the debate veer further than the European Union and its current travails; given the priority status that France’s chronic domestic concerns have, that was almost inevitable.

Whether Sarkozy and his advisers have missed a trick remains to be seen. However, under Sarkozy’s stewardship, France’s foreign policy has been expansive, some might say adventurist, a key feature of his presidency and his vision of a globally influential nation. Who wins on Sunday will doubtlessly affect France’s overseas image, Al-Monitor reports.

EGYPT: $662 MILLION OF T-BILLS OFFERED AS SAUDI AID NEARS ARRIVAL

Egypt will offer 4 billion Egyptian pounds ($662 million) of three- and nine-month treasury bills as Saudi Arabia said it would this month start “implementing” an aid package agreed on almost a year ago, Ahmed A. Namatalla (Bloomberg) reports. MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD GAINS IN RECENT OPINION POLL: Support for the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate almost doubled in an opinion poll published in Al- Ahram newspaper two weeks before Egypt’s presidential election, while the two longstanding front-runners ceded ground, Bloomberg reports.

ARABIAN GULF: WHAT IS IN A NAME? GOOGLE MAPS STAYS NEUTRAL IN PERSIAN/ARABIAN GULF NAMING DISPUTE

Iranian Netizens are expressing anger over Google Maps’ decision to leave the body of water between Saudi Arabia and Iran nameless.

Iran and the Arab Gulf states disagree over what to call the Gulf between them: The former say it is the Persian Gulf, and the latter say it is the Arabian Gulf.

A Google representative told the BBC the company does not want to take a political stance on the issue. The rep could not recall any other geographic feature that Google has refrained from naming, the BBC reported, IBT writes.

TURKEY: RELATIONS WITH IRAQ DETERIORATE WITH ACCUSATIONS OF SECTARIANISM

Turkey’s dreams of regional hegemony are driving it into an ever-more antagonistic relationship with Iraq, where Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s policies are threatening the country’s fragile federalism, Henri Barkey (Al-Monitor) reports.

UAE: ONCE UPON A TIME IN DUBAI

Today, Dubai is known as a gleaming, glittering cosmopolitan oasis, crowned by the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. But it was not long ago that the city was as familiar with camels and dhows as it is now with Ferraris and indoor ski slopes. The regional oil boom changed everything: As the Gulf states found themselves flush with trillions in petrodollars, the tiny emirate positioned itself as a financial entrepot and regional hub for construction and tourism, Foreign Policy writes, in a slideshow. HORMUZ PIPELINE NEARLY COMPLETE: Initially operating at a rate of 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd), the pipeline should offer the Gulf producer an alternative route out of the narrow strait which Iran has threatened to block as western pressure to limit its oil revenues has intensified, Kipp Report reports.

SYRIA: ELECTIONS HELD BUT VIOLENCE RAGES

Syrians voted in a parliamentary election on Monday touted by authorities as a milestone of political reform but dismissed by the opposition as a facade while people are killed every day in an anti-government uprising.

Violence persisted across the country between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels fighting to end four decades of dynastic rule by his family, Reuters reports.

ARAB SPRING: PALESTINIAN JOURNALISTS PUSHED TO TEST FREE SPEECH LIMITS AFTER ARAB SPRING

Yousef Shayeb, 37, a Palestinian journalist from Ramallah, published an article in a Jordanian newspaper this year charging officials at the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Paris with corruption and espionage. In an interview here last week, he said that he had imagined people might thank him for his exposé. Instead, he spent eight days in a Palestinian Authority jail, Isabel Kershner (NYT) writes.

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