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In a widely-expected move, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced on 22 June that this year’s Hajj – which is due to start in late July – will be restricted to “a very limited number of pilgrims” due to the risk presented by the coronavirus pandemic. The precise number of devotees who will be allowed to perform the week-long pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina has not been announced, but there have been suggestions the figure may be as low as 1,000 people.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 976 - 05 September 2014

Qatar: Mediating

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Qatar has been involved in securing the release of 45-year-old US journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who was being held by Jabhat Al-Nusra, which captured him in Syria. His release after two years came just days after the gruesome murder of US journalist James Foley, who was also captured in Syria in 2012 and ended up in the hands of the Islamic State extremist group (see View). Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar has also claimed Qatar is involved in negotiations with Jabhat Al-Nusra to secure the release of Lebanese soldiers captured during fighting in the Lebanese town of Ersal.

Qatar
Issue 1077 - 21 March 2019

Saudi Arabia: Red Sea gas

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Energy, industry and mineral resources minister Khalid Al-Falih has claimed that “large quantities” of natural gas have been discovered in the Red Sea. However, he did not give any specific details of how much natural gas has been found. Saudi Aramco has natural gas reserves of around 320 tcf and has been pushing to develop its position in the international gas market, not least through potential investments in liquified natural gas projects in the US.

Saudi Arabia
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From the evaporation of lakes and rivers to the extinction of rare species in its ravaged forests, the extent of environmental damage in Iran could, if left unchecked, pose a threat to the country arguably greater than that of any external adversary. Problems are particularly severe in urban areas, where vehicle emissions and industrial pollution are causing thousands of deaths from respiratory and heart disease each year. The capital Tehran, where 4.2m cars a day pump exhaust fumes into the haze above the city, bears most of the toll; in 2013, the health ministry said that more than 4,500 residents of the city of almost 9m had died as a result of air pollution that year.

Iran
Issue 849 - 13 March 2009

RBS stays in PF, advises Dolphin deal

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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
Issue 981 - 14 November 2014

Kuwait: Bids in for airport expansion

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The Central Tender Committee (CTC) announced on 3 November that a consortium of Kuwait-based Kharafi National (KN) and Turkish conglomerate Limak Holding had submitted the lowest bid – worth KD1.39bn ($4.76bn) – for a contract to build a new terminal at Kuwait International Airport. Other bids ranged up to KD1.7bn; the CTC said they had been referred to the Ministry of Public Works for a final recommendation. The news was a positive step for the terminal project, which was delayed in June after companies bidding for the construction contract pulled out of the tender process.

Kuwait
Issue 966 - 24 March 2014

Saudi Arabia: Ban on baby names

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The Saudi interior ministry has issued a list banning 50 names on the basis that they offend the culture or religion of the kingdom, are foreign, or inappropriate. According to the Gulf News, the ban – which has been widely covered by the international press – includes western names such as Alice and Linda, names such as Abdul Nabi and Abdul Hussein – opposed by some who suggest Abdul means ‘worshipper of’, and therefore implies worship of someone other than God – and those that are associated with royalty, such as Malika (queen), Mamlaka (kingdom) and Amir (prince).

Saudi Arabia
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Tehran has reacted angrily to a speech by Prince Turki Al-Faisal, in which the prominent Saudi commentator, former intelligence chief and ambassador backed calls for regime change at a ‘Free Iran’ rally held in Paris on 9 July. The event was organised by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a coalition of opposition groups including the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO), which Iran regards as a terrorist group.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 926 - 21 June 2012

BAHRAIN: Banking merger vote

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Shareholders at Bahrain-based Islamic banks Capivest, Elaf Bank and Capital Management House will vote on a proposed merger this month.

Bahrain
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Prime minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah’s government resigned on 14 November, following rising tensions with the National Assembly (parliament) that included the earlier resignation of public works minister Jenan Mohsin Ramadan Boushehri and a no-confidence motion against interior minister Sheikh Khaled Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah. It is the seventh time since 2007 the government has resigned following grillings or no-confidence motions. This has sometimes been followed by new elections, as in November 2011, but Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah is not expected to dissolve the assembly this time.

Kuwait
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Prince Nawaf Bin Faisal Bin Fahd Bin Abdelaziz was relieved of his post as head of the General Presidency of Youth Welfare on 26 June, apparently at his request, and replaced by Prince Abdullah Bin Musaid Bin Abdelaziz, the prominent businessman. Nawaf Bin Faisal had been in the role since January 2011, and had previously been vice-president, under his predecessor and uncle Sultan Bin Fahd. Nawaf is also the president of the Saudi Olympic Committee and until March 2012 headed the Saudi Arabia Football Federation.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 891 - 10 December 2010

Muscat opera house to open in 2011

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Catering not only to his love of classical music, but also to the genre’s reported popularity among Omanis, Sultan Qaboos has ordered the construction of a 16th century Italian-style opera house due to open in October 2011, according to Agence France-Presse.

Oman
Free

Saudi Aramco continues efforts to improve the efficiency of its operations ahead of its planned, but slow-moving, stock market listing. On 27 May, it signed an unconventional gas stimulation services contract with US firm Halliburton. This is part of Aramco’s plans to develop unconventional gas resources in the north of the country, South Ghawar and the Rub Al-Khali areas to serve the domestic market and contribute to regional economic development. It will involve major hydraulic fracturing and well intervention operations from Halliburton. Work is due to begin this month.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1043 - 09 September 2017

Emir Sheikh Sabah: All the way to America

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As so often belying his 88 years, Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah left for the United States on 1 September, on a trip which will include a meeting with President Donald Trump on 7 September. The emir’s delegation includes foreign minister Sheikh Sabah A-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, interior minister Sheikh Khalid Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah, finance minister Anas Khaled Al-Saleh, and National Guard deputy chairman Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

Kuwait
Issue 864 - 06 November 2009

New position for Mansour Bin Mitab

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On 2 November, King Abdullah appointed Prince Mansour Bin Mitab Bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud as municipal and rural affairs minister. Mansour's father, Prince Mitab, who has a record of government service dating

Saudi Arabia