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Issue 849 - 13 March 2009

Israeli lobby gets Freeman's scalp

Subscriber

Veteran diplomat, linguist and former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas Freeman, has withdrawn from consideration for the position of National Intelligence Council chairman (GSN 848/4). Only two weeks ago, director of National Intelligence

Saudi Arabia | Israel
Free

Yemen is trying to counter the threat of falling oil production by bringing in more IOCs – with recent changes to the hydrocarbons law intended to entice back the majors, rather than giving new incentives to the minnows who have helped build up its industry. The emergence of export LNG is an added incentive to invest, provided gas-gathering systems and other infrastructure can be efficiently developed. President Saleh is looking to old friends in Russia to help develop such projects, but all participants are welcome during a period when many western IOCs are confronted with financial pressures, and equity stakes will become available as firms seek to cash in their assets.

Yemen
Issue 849 - 13 March 2009

SHEIKH SAQR: Allegiance message

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Ruler Sheikh Saqr Bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi received a message of allegiance signed by 120,000 of his people as part of celebrations surrounding the 60th anniversary of his rule.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Subscriber

President Ali Abdullah Saleh in February travelled to Russia for high-profile talks with President Dmitry Medvedev, his mentor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. While talks mainly centred on arms deals, Saleh also met the head of Russian oil giant Gazprom. Yemeni state media reported officials signed a '$1bn deal' to buy Russian equipment, including fighter planes, helicopters and tanks. This included the purchase of MiG-29 planes, helicopters, T-80 and T-72 tanks, and armoured vehicles. Local observers have long speculated that Yemen could be one of several regional states to host Russian bases in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean,

Yemen
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A two-year inquiry by the UK's Charity Commission into the operations of The Palestinians Relief and Development Fund (Interpal) was completed on 26 February. It concluded "that it could not verify that the material it examined suggesting certain partner organisations funded by the Charity may be promoting terrorist ideology or activities." The inquiry was opened on 13 December 2006 after a BBC documentary called Faith, Hate and Charity alleged that the majority of Interpal's funding was sent to local partners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs), and that a number of these promoted the ideology of Hamas (GSN 803/7). However, the Commission found that "the charity maintained clear financial audit trails in its delivery of aid for humanitarian purposes." But it does say that Interpal's close ties with the Union for Good must end.

Palestine
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London-based investment firm MerchantBridge launched the Mesopotamia Equity Fund (MEF) at the end of February to invest solely in the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX), which despite Iraq’s political crises has been the best performing bourse in the region of late. MerchantBridge’s Dr Buddy Soubra, who is one of three MEF investment committee members, told GSN “it will concentrate on listed securities in three main sectors, including banking, tourism, and industry.”

Iraq
Issue 849 - 13 March 2009

The ICM changes its tune

Subscriber

The Islamic Constitutional Movement is the voice of mainstream organised moderate Sunni Islamism in Kuwait. Although it has attempted to push government policy in a more conservative direction on social issues - such as the separation of university classes for men and women - the group has steered a centrist and measured course on economic matters, combining traditional Islamist welfare concerns with a broad acceptance of the case for phased economic liberalisation

Kuwait
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The Dubai government has invested $200m in four sharia-compliant hedge funds in the hope of tapping the $800bn Islamic finance industry, expected to grow by 15% this year. But the concept has its risks, and many investors remain sceptical about the viability of Islamic hedge funds.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Issue 849 - 13 March 2009

RBS stays in PF, advises Dolphin deal

Subscriber

Former boss Sir Fred Goodwin is vilified in the British press, and the UK government effectively controls 68% of its equity, but credit crunch victim Royal Bank of Scotland retains some significant businesses, notably a project finance arm which has acted as advisor to major GCC project sponsors including Qatar Petroleum, Saudi Aramco, Total, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum Corp (Oxy). Rumour has it that, as it refocuses its investment banking operations, a contrite RBS is set to exit project, leveraged and real estate lending.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Saudi Arabia | Oman | Qatar
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Sheikh Nasser Mohammed is suffering a political realignment, with the Islamic Constitutional Movement’s move from cabinet to grilling sponsor reflecting an erosion of support for his government.

Kuwait
Subscriber

Emir: Diplomatic meetings, Sherborne promotion, Tamim Bin Hamad: French military co-operation,Kasi Al Thani: In the news again

Qatar
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Saud Al-Faisal: Syria visit, angers Ayatollahs, Turki Bin Faisal: Allegiance Council member dies, Military princes: Service extended, Fahd Al-Abdelrahman: Marriage to Bandar daughter, Mishaall Bin Abdelaziz: In Cairo, Adila Bint Abdullah: Takes up girl’s case

Saudi Arabia
Issue 848 - 27 February 2009

An insouciant view from Kuwait

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Central Bank of Kuwait governor Sheikh Salem Abdelaziz Al-Sabah was very bullish, going so far as to say that the “crisis has not hit it that much.”

Kuwait
Subscriber

The Obama administration’s decision to attempt diplomatic re-engagement with Iran provides a moment of excruciating discomfort for many US politicians and generals. GSN has been exposed to some of the thinking going on inside the Pentagon, as well as in the think tanks and State Department offices charged with charting a path through this dangerous territory.

Iran
Subscriber

The UAE on 24 February took its latest plunge into the global defence market, formally signing a letter of request for $3.4bn worth of US military hardware from The Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin. The deal was the centrepiece of the ninth International Defence Conference and Exhibition (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi. Reflecting the oil emirate’s leading role

United Arab Emirates (UAE)