31 October 2008

* Pierre Daher Breaks LBC Media Contract

ذكرت صحيفة "الأخبار" أن العلاقة المتوترة أصلاً بين رئيس مجلس إدارة المؤسسة اللبنانية للإرسال، بيار الضاهر، وقائد «القوات اللبنانية»، سمير جعجع، بشأن إدارة المؤسسة، دخلت فصلاً جديداً، مع انتقالها إلى الحيِّز التجاري، بعدما تبيّن أن الضاهر ألغى العقد الإعلاني الحصري الذي كان مُوقَّعاً بين القناة الفضائية للمؤسسة المذكورة وأنطوان الشويري، إمبراطور الإعلانات، والمقرب جداً من جعجع، بينما تشهد القناة الأرضية مفاوضات في الأمر نفسه، مع أرجحية لعدم الخلاف، لكن من دون إسقاط نتائج التوتر على مسائل أخرى، من بينها الحديث عن تعديلات في دورة البرامج والمعدين والمقدمين في المحطة.
ونقلت "الأخبار" عن مصادر مطلعة قولها أن الشويري، الذي يناصر جعجع في معركته للاستيلاء على المؤسسة اللبنانية للإرسال، واجه قبل مدة نقاشاً صعباً مع إدارة القناة الفضائية التي يملك رجل الأعمال السعودي، الوليد بن طلال، حصة كبيرة فيها، إذ رفض الأخير، ومعه الضاهر، العرض الإعلاني للسنة المقبلة المُقدَّم من الشويري.
ولما قال الأخير إنه لا يستطيع توفير عائدات أكبر، أبلغه الثنائي الضاهر ـــــ الوليد أن العقد الذي يستمر حتى نهاية هذه السنة لن يبقى قائماً مطلع السنة المقبلة، وأن القناة ستبرم عقداً مع شركة روتانا للتسويق والخدمات (R.M.S) لتتولى هي مسؤولية الإعلانات في المحطة التي تحولت في الفترة الأخيرة إلى قناة خليجية، أكثر منها لبنانية.
ومع أن الشويري يتحدث عن شروط قاسية في حال فَسْخِ العقد، إلا أنه يقول إنه ليس في وارد إرغام أحد على العمل معه، لكنه يعتقد أن للقرار أكثر من بعد. فمن جهة، هناك ـــــ كما ينسب إلى الشويري ـــــ سعي من الوليد بن طلال إلى توسيع عمل شركته الإعلانية، وهو يريد القناة الفضائية للمؤسسة اللبنانية للإرسال لأنها قناة قوية، والوليد يسعى إلى إنشاء مجموعة إعلامية إعلانية تنافس الشويري في السوق السعودية والسوق الخليجية وفي لبنان. إضافة إلى أسباب تتصل بموقف الضاهر من انحياز الشويري إلى جعجع في المعركة القضائية المفتوحة.
ومع ذلك، فإن البعض يتحدثون عن استمرار المفاوضات بشأن مستقبل العقد بين مجموعة الشويري والقناة الأرضية للمؤسسة اللبنانية للإرسال، ويبدو أن هناك صعوبة لدى الطرفين في التخلي عن العقد الآن، ما يفسح في المجال لتوافق يُبقي الأمور على حالها، رغم أن الشويري متهم بأنه هو من يقف وراء مشروع إعادة إطلاق محطة الـ«مر .تي. في»، وأنه سيتولى إدارتها إعلانياً، ولكنه سوف يفعل ذلك من خلال إطار قانوني وتجاري مختلف عن مجموعته الأصلية، لأن القانون يمنعه من إدارة الإعلانات في قناتين لبنانيتين في الوقت نفسه. ومع ذلك، فإن في بيروت جهات إعلامية مرئية ذات تاريخ من الصراع مع الشويري تعتقد أنها ستكون أمام معركة قانونية وملاحقة للشويري إذا حصل الأمر مباشرة أو مواربة.

(nashra)

30 October 2008

* Iranian source: "Quake" Saturday was nuclear bomb test?

Israel Insider exclusively reports that a seismic event this weekend in southern Iran may in fact have been a massive underground nuclear bomb test. According to the USGS, the tremor measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale took place Saturday night, October 25 just before midnight Iran time, with its epicenter at 26.70°N, 55.02°E, just north of the strategic straits of Hormuz, opposite Abu Dhabi.
Map source: Google Maps.

The claim that the tremor was in fact a nuclear test came from an Iranian nuclear scientist who claims to be working in uranium enrichment for the project. A report published by Israel Insider on Friday, October 24 included a captionless map that portrayed the area of the seismic event that occurred the following night, based on location information previously provided by the Iranian source.

Israel Insider's source reports that the test is in fact the second in a series. A 4.8 Richter scale event occurred on October 21 with an epicenter (26.70N, 54.96E) within 5 km (3 miles) of the October 25 tremor.

Israeli and foreign sources have long speculated that Iran has been in possession of ready nuclear bombs but would only begin testing them when a full production line for nuclear weapons is in place.

The source indicated that Iran is being assisted by China and North Korea. Israel Insider's Iranian source reports that two "nuclear rockets" have been completed and are intended for use against the Jewish State in the coming months.

The site of the test and the development facility are believed to be in close proximity. The location appears to have been carefully selected. The area is exposed to significant seismic activity, which could serve to mask nuclear tests, although the recent spike in activity in that specific area significantly deviates from historical trends. A tremor measuring 6.2 struck the area on September 10, 2008 (its epicenter was 80km or 50 miles due west), the largest seismic event in the area in more than 33 years.

Source and additional data:USGS
The location on the Persian Gulf near the straits of Hormuz would also facilitate delivery and transport of material and personnel. the strategic importance of the immediate area may also be intended to deter potential strikes against the facilities, which could close down the flow of a substantial percentage of the world's oil.




(israelinsider)



* AUB gets paid for naming its Nursing School after Rafic Hariri!

The American University of Beirut has received a $10m pledge from Beirut MP Saad Hariri to name and endow the School of Nursing at the University!



(topix)



* Why Syria, Why Now?

So the question is: Why?", geostrategic analyst and journalist Helena Cobban wrote on her blog, wondering if the raid could have been pulled off without explicit permission from the highest levels of the President George W Bush administration.

"Why now at the end of the Bush administration, with Washington trying to play nice with Damascus and tensions easing throughout the region, would US forces stage such a gambit?" echoed Borzou Daragahi on the Babylon and Beyond blog at the Los Angeles Times website.

The questions started to swirl late on Sunday afternoon when US helicopters allegedly crossed eight kilometers over the desert border between Syria and Iraq. According to reports, eight US soldiers were deployed when a helicopter landed, attacking the al-Sukkari farm in the Syrian Abu Kamal border area.

The cross-border raid - the first of its kind involving a helicopter attack and US boots on the ground that far into Syrian territory - left eight dead, according to Syrian press reports.

The attack is especially curious since, according to a report this weekend in the New York Times, Bush appears to have rolled back his initiative of troop-driven cross-border attacks - initially approved this summer - by Afghan-based US forces into Pakistani territory.

The raid also comes as Syria is negotiating with Israel, through Turkish mediation, presumably in a calculated effort to alleviate tensions with the West and the US. The Bush administration's take on the Israel-Syria talks has been lukewarm at best.

More immediately for the US, the raid could complicate negotiations on a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraqi authorities which would allow US forces to keep operating in Iraq after the United Nations mandate expires at the end of this year.

The talks on the SOFA have been bogged down, and a persistent Iraqi demand has been that Iraqi soil not be used as a launch pad for attacks on other countries.

"The Iraqi government rejects US aircraft bombarding posts inside Syria," a government spokesperson, Ali al-Dabbagh, said on Tuesday. "The constitution does not allow Iraq to be used as a staging ground to attack neighboring countries."

Dabbagh said Iraq had opened an investigation into the incident and urged US forces not to repeat it.

The US Department of Defense has repeatedly declined to comment on the Syrian incident, including to a direct request by Inter Press Service, but several press reports have quoted unnamed US officials confirming the attack, and saying that it was ordered by the Central Intelligence Agency.

One US official anonymously told Agence France-Presse that the strike was aimed at Abu Ghadiya, whom the official called "one of the most prominent foreign fighter facilitators in the region". The official said he believed the target was killed.

The spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in Washington, Ahmed Salkini, told IPS that the name did not appear on the official Syrian list of those dead.

In retaliation, Syria has shut down a US school and cultural center in Damascus, and its United Nations envoy has requested that the Security Council intervene to prevent further incursions into Syrian territory.

"This act of aggression perpetrated by the US forces against Syrian civilians indicates the US administration's determination to go on in its policies that brought nothing but killing and destruction to the region," said Syria's letter to the Security Council.

Neo-conservatives and hawks within the Bush administration have long clamored for expanding Middle Eastern conflicts into Syria, which was named as one of the three countries in Bush's famous "axis of evil".

Indeed, Bush's neo-conservative deputy national security adviser, Elliott Abrams, told Israeli officials during a high-level meeting that the US would not object if Israel extended its 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon into Syria.

But if the cross-border attack was an attempt by hawks to lure Syria into a war, it appears to have failed; Syria has engaged in a measured response, although it did call the act of aggression "a dangerous violation of the Syrian sovereignty and the UN principles and conventions", in its letter to the UN.

Syria's press attache in London, Jihad Makdissi, told the British Broadcasting Corporation that the US should have approach Syria first.

"If they have any proof of any insurgency, instead of applying the law of the jungle and penetrating, unprovoked, a sovereign country, they should come to the Syrians first and share this information," he said.

Cobban, a well-respected commentator and veteran analyst, said on her Just World News blog that the Syrians had not responded, and are not about to respond, in any way that is violent or otherwise escalates tensions.

"I've been studying the behavior of this Ba'athist regime in Syria closely for 34 years now. They have steely nerves. They are just about impossible to 'provoke', at any point that they judge a harsh response is not in their interest," she wrote.

While foreign fighters from Syria have long been problematic to the US occupation of Iraq, since 2006, US patrols along the border and some Syrian cooperation have dramatically reduced the number of foreign fighters flowing into Iraq.

Last December, the former US commander in Iraq and now the CENTCOM chief, General David Petraeus, said, "Syria has taken steps to reduce the flow of the foreign fighters through its borders with Iraq."

Petraeus reiterated the notion this month when he reported that fighters from Syria moving into Iraq have had their monthly total reduced from about 100 to 20.

But last Thursday, the commander of US troops in western Iraq, Marine Major John Kelly, said that while there has been progress, it wasn't enough.

The suspected involvement of some of the most vociferous anti-Syria hawks at the highest levels of the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney, have combined with US silence on the matter to fuel a guessing game as to just exactly who ordered or approved Sunday's cross-border raid.

"This operation was pretty clearly run by US special operations forces pursuing a terrorist target," Colonel Pat Lang, a retired US military intelligence officer, told IPS. "Their sole mission is like a SWAT team to go around and hunt terrorists."

Lang said that these special operations forces sometimes operate distinctly outside the normal military chain of command by design of hawkish former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld.

"If left to themselves, they would do this kind of thing [the Syria raid]. That's what they do," said Lang. "They don't follow policy, they carry out their assigned mission."

Because the US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, is dealing with mounting concerns about the SOFA, Lang suspects that he'd be hesitant to directly approve such a bold a provocative attack as Sunday afternoon's.

"I haven't established it yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the authority to do this came right out of the White House," Lang told IPS.

Asked if the decision undermines pressing US goals for commanders in Iraq, Lang said that while the considerations are there, they don't always filter up into decision-making in the executive branch.

"Usually command arrangements of various kinds are messy," Lang said, "and this White House has shown a tendency to want to bypass the established chain of command and influence what's going on [in the field]."

But in addition to being a bold foreign policy move, the raid has also been interpreted by some as a political stunt, albeit one unlikely to succeed.

Some journalists and experts have speculated that the raid was a Bush administration attempt to deliver an "October Surprise" - a late game-changing development favoring one candidate - for Republican candidate Senator John McCain just over a week before the presidential election in which he badly trails Democratic rival Senator Barack Obama in most polls.

McCain has been seen as holding an advantage in issues of national security, but the strike does not appear to have made too much immediate impact, as on Wednesday the Democrat led McCain by 52-45% in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll.

(IPS)

* McCain's Irresponsible Syria Response

So how does the McCain campaign respond to sporadic news reports that U.S. special forces carried out an attack in Syrian territory?  Well a responsible campaign (i.e. the Obama campaign) would follow the White House's lead and offer no comment until they got more information.  But instead the McCain campaign opts for blatant politicization. Here is McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb:

"Syria is a state sponsor of terror and a sanctuary for terrorists that target U.S. troops in Iraq, yet Barack Obama has pledged to meet personally and unconditionally with Syria's leaders during his first year in office. While John McCain has been demanding that Syria do more to crack down on terrorists moving from its territory into Iraq, Barack Obama allowed one of his closest foreign policy advisers to travel to Syria for discussions with the leaders of that rogue regime. Barack Obama opposed the surge, voted against funding for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and demanded the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. If Barack Obama had his way, U.S. forces would not have been in a position to launch this strike. So does Barack Obama support this action -- an action that would not even have been possible if his policies had been implemented?"
This is so absurd.  Let me count the ways.  First, McCain is once again demonstrating the recklessness and impulsiveness that makes one question whether he can in fact be commander in chief.  There is only one proper response to this.  The same response that the Obama campaign gave, which is that you just simply don't discuss a military operation if the White House and the military are refusing to comment.  The issue is a sensitive one and a question of national security.  You take your lead from them and wait until you have all the facts, instead of trying to score cheap political points.
Second, here is the McCain campaign accusing Senator Obama of supposedly not being willing to crossover into Syria, even though he has rightly not commented on it at all.  But Senator McCain has previously mocked Senator Obama for being willing to go into Pakistan and go after high value Al Qaeda targets.  The intelligence community tells us that the greatest threat to the homeland and the place where an attack would most likely be planned is on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.  But the McCain campaign seems to be arguing that smuggling routes from Syria into Iraq are a higher priority target than terrorist training camps in Pakistan.  That is an exact rehash of invading Iraq to fight terrorism, while taking your eye off of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  We've tried it before.  It didn't work.
Finally, there is the argument about not meeting with Syria.  Here is the thing.  Israeli PM Olmert has stated publicly that Israel should move to direct negotiations directly with the Syrians and the Israelis are currently in talks through a Turkish mediator.  Ambassador Nick Burns, who was Bush's point man on Iran for three years, had a piece out this weekend arguing for direct talks with our enemies.  Colin Powell, James Baker, the Iraq Study Group, and numerous Republican foreign policy experts have all called for talks with Syria.  McCain is the odd man out on this one.
And yet, his campaign, which claims national security as its greatest strength, is irresponsibly politicizing this story one week before the election.
Update:  Max Bergmann has previously pointed out that McCain himself was for talking to the Syrians before he was against it.






(democracyarsenal)






27 October 2008

* UAE property prices set to fall

Property prices could fall in the United Arab Emirates but local banks would be able to handle the long-expected downturn, the country’s central bank governor said at a conference on Monday.

“A real estate correction could happen, but UAE banks are cushioned... the banks are safe,” Sultan Nasser al Suweidi, the central bank governor, said at a conference held by the Arab Monetary Fund in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE

The governor stressed that the domestic liquidity situation was improving and that the central bank stood ready to pump in even more capital into the banking system, but it is the first time a high-ranking government official has admitted that local real estate prices could fall.

Despite many warnings of corrections in recent years, property prices have continued to soar in the UAE, driven by booming economic growth, negative real interest rates, and a vast influx of expatriates.

Mr Suweidi also added credence to rumours of consolidation in the country’s banking sector, which is crowded by more than 50 domestic and international commercial houses, many of them government-controlled.

“At this stage I’d say mergers are a very good choice for banks,” Mr Suweidi told reporters on the sidelines of the conference. “[This is] not necessarily for weak banks but also for strong banks because mergers among strong banks will cut expenses and other administrative costs.”

Several Gulf governments, including the UAE, have deposited billions of dollars in local banks and issued blanket deposit guarantees to ease a liquidity crunch and prop up economic growth.

The UAE, one of the hardest hit countries in the Gulf region due to the relatively openness of its economy, has made up to Dh120bn available to local banks, some as direct deposits and some as a credit facility at the central bank.

Of the Dh50bn available from the central bank, about 15 per cent, or Dh7.5bn ($2bn) had been tapped so far, Mr Suweidi said on Monday.

Concerns over the liquidity squeeze and a possible downturn in real estate markets across the region - particularly in ritzy Dubai - have exacerbated the slump of local equity markets. The MSCI Gulf index has lost nearly half its market capitalisation this year.

The two UAE bourses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai both fell on Monday, declining 5.80 per cent and 2.01 per cent respectively. Saudi Arabia, the region’s biggest and most diverse stock market, slumped 5.0 per cent.

Oman’s exchange was the region’s worst performer, dropping 7.45 per cent, while Qatar fell 1.46 per cent and Bahrain declined 2.90 per cent.

Kuwait’s stock market fell 2.22 per cent, as the central bank was forced to issue a blanket guarantee of all deposits, after Gulf Bank, the country’s second-largest commercial bank, said it had lost money on a client currency derivatives trade.

The country “has recently faced mounting new challenges led by the current global turmoil and freezing international money markets,” Brahim Razgallah, an economist at JPMorgan, wrote in a research note.

“Kuwait has a long history of bank deposits guarantee that well served the country to maintain confidence in the banking system after the financial crisis of the 1980s and the first Gulf War,” he wrote in the note sent Monday.

(FT)



* U.S. Stages Raid Inside Syria? (update 1)

 
The primary target of the U.S. raid into Syria was a "senior leader" of Al Qaeda in Iraq's "extensive network that funnels foreign fighters, weapons, and cash" into the country, according to the Long War Journal.

U.S. special operations hunter-killer teams entered Syria in an attempt to capture Abu Ghadiya… who has been in charge of the Syrian network since 2005….

The raid to capture Ghadiya occurred in the town of Sukkariya…just five miles from the Iraqi border. Four U.S. helicopters crossed the border and two of the helicopters landed to drop off special operations forces…

Nine people were reported killed and 14 were wounded. Syrian officials claimed innocent construction workers and women and children were killed in the raid.

U.S. officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment if Ghadiya was killed or captured.

As Allen Thomson notes, this region has been a problem for U.S. operations in Iraq for years. So why hit it now? Juan Cole sees the attack as a way to "mak[e] sure that what the administration calls 'al-Qaeda in Iraq' did not have the means to mount a spectacular bombing or assassination campaign" that might impact the American election. I'm not sure I'm that cynical.
<<<
Meanwhile, the L.A. Times' Babylon & Beyond blog has its own theory: The raid might have been a kind of brushback pitch -- a way to keep Syria away from a key border base that's now been turned over to Iraqi forces.
>>> 
... bull***!!




The U.S. military has been using killer drones to take out enemies for years. But those strikes have ordinarily targeted small groups, or lone individuals. Last night, an American pilotless plane reportedly killed 20 people during an attack on a militant compound in Pakistan. It could well be the deadliest drone strike ever.



(wired)



* Hariri-Nasrallah meet in low-profile!


Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, left, meets with pro-Western parliament majority leader Saad Hariri, right, in Beirut. Hezbollah's Al-Manar television reports that Lebanon's top rival Sunni and Shiite Muslim leaders have held a long-awaited meeting in an attempt to defuse sectarian tensions in the country.

(ap)



* U.S. Stages Raid Inside Syria?

The Syrian press is claiming U.S. forces launched a helicopter raid inside Syrian territory today... SANA, the country's state-run news agency, said four US military helicopters 'violated Syrian airspace' at 4:45 p.m. local time. The report further claims that eight Syrian citizens were 'martyred' in the attack, allegedly launched from across the border in Iraq.



DAMASCUS, (SANA)-An official source on Sunday announced that four US helicopters coming from Iraq violated the Syrian airspaces over Abu Kamal area (al-Sukkariah Farm) targeting a civilian building, killing eight citizens.
The source identified the civilians killed in the aggression as Daoud Mohammad al-Abdullah and his four sons, in addition to Ahmad Khalifa, Ali Abbas Al-Hassan and his wife. Another citizen was also wounded, the source added. Later, the US helicopters flew back to the Iraqi airspace.
Syria, while condemning this act of aggression, holds the US forces responsible for this aggression and all of its repercussions, calls on the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibilities and open an immediate investigation into this dangerous violation and prevent using the Iraqi territories for launching aggression on Syria.
The Deputy Foreign Minister summoned the Charge d 'Affairs at the US Embassy in Damascus, informing her of Syria's protest and condemnation of this dangerous aggression, holding the US administration full responsibility for it. The Iraqi Charge d'affaires has also been summoned to the Foreign Ministry for the same purpose.
Earlier, a media source said that four US military helicopters had violated the Syrian airspaces eight km over al-Sukkariah Farm, in Abu Kamal area at 4.45 P.M Sunday.
The US helicopters launched an aggression on a civilian building under construction and opened fire at the workers inside the building, killing eight civilians, including the wife of the building guard, and wounding another. The helicopters then left towards the Iraqi territories.

The Los Angeles Times reports a non-denial from the Pentagon:

Details were sketchy. In Washington, several military representatives asked about the operation did not deny that a raid had taken place. Although they would not confirm the attack, they used language typically employed after raids conducted by secretive Special Operations forces.

We contacted the duty officer at U.S. Central Command public affairs; he said he had "no information" on the incident. The latest update from SANA says that Syria's deputy foreign minister summoned the chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy in Damascus to protest the incident.

If the Syrian allegations are in fact true, the incident sounds very similar to some of the hot pursuit raids we've seen inside Pakistan in recent months. A helicopter-borne assault by U.S. and Afghan special operations inside Pakistan last month provoked a storm of protest from Islamabad, with Pakistan's Foreign Ministry complaining of a "gross violation of Pakistan's territory" and "a grave provocation." But beyond the rhetoric, there seemed to have been very little diplomatic fallout.

Lest we forget, there was also that Israeli air raid last September against a Syrian site that was supposed linked to clandestine nuclear activity. The site of this latest attack, according to the Los Angeles Times, is in the same vicinity as that strike.



All victims were civilians," the Dunya report said.
Witnesses told media that two helicopters landed and eight U.S. soldiers disembarked. Syrian state television said they stormed a building.
The attack, if confirmed, would appear to mark the first time during the 5-year-old Iraq war that U.S. troops have launched an attack inside Syria.
U.S. officials have often accused Syria of allowing Sunni Arab insurgents to cross the porous frontier into Iraq and wreak havoc. But such allegations have subsided in recent months as violence in Iraq has decreased and Damascus and Washington have begun taking steps toward rapprochement.
Syrian foreign minister Walid Moallem met briefly with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last month.

(wired/yalibnan)



* 20 Tons of Cannabis Confiscated

Around 20 tons of cannabis in 25 trucks were seized on Sunday in the Bekaa region of eastern Lebanon, a security services official told AFP.
"Twenty-five lorries carrying about 20 tons of cannabis were seized on Sunday at Deir al-Ahmar" as part of an anti-drugs operation launched on Thursday by the security services, the official said.

Three other vehicles loaded with a total of more than two tons of drugs were seized on Saturday in the same operation, along with equipment for processing hashish, he said.

Several people have been arrested, the official added.

The Bekaa Valley has long been known as fertile territory for narcotics, which flourished into a multi-billion dollar industry during the Lebanese civil war from 1975-1990.

Illegal cultivation diminished for a while but has expanded again in recent years after the failure of alternative crop programs.

The number of eradication campaigns has expanded but people in charge of destroying illicit plants are often threatened by traffickers.


(afp)



24 October 2008

* Arabtec sees 122% nine-month net increase with Dh49bn order book

Arabtec Holdings yesterday said its order book stands at Dh49 billion and reported a 122 per cent increase in net profit for the first nine months of the year.

"We have a very healthy order book and most of our clients are still pursuing their projects," Ziad Makhzoumi, Arabtec's Chief Financial Officer, told Emirates Business. "And I do not see any reason for it to change."

Makhzoumi said even during the difficult global economic conditions, it is business as usual for Arabtec. "We are on target for the fourth quarter and expect net profit to be close to Dh1bn for the year. We don't see any obvious change in our numbers or in the market itself. There will be some adjustments in the market, but in our case we expect to reach our target."

Arabtec yesterday reported a group profit of Dh761 million for the first three quarters of 2008, compared to Dh343m achieved during the corresponding period in 2007. Revenues for the period increased to Dh6.4bn compared to Dh2.8bn in the first three quarters of 2007, an increase of 129 per cent.

Chief Executive Riad Kamal said in a statement: "The increase in profit is due to the increase in the consolidated revenue and maintaining the net profit percentage. This has resulted from the careful expansion strategy implemented by Arabtec and the selected acquisitions completed, which focused on complementing our expertise.

"Arabtec adopted a strategic plan over the past few years that aimed to diversify our projects portfolio revenue mix without compromising on safety or quality and delivering on schedule."

The current number of joint ventures and subsidiaries within Arabtec Holding total up to 14 and the synergies work well for the group projects portfolio in regional markets.

It is currently focusing on Saudi Arabia as part of its expansion plans in the region. "Saudi Arabia is a growing market and we have to divert our resources to develop it fully. With the present order book and market in Dubai, we would like to also concentrate on the existing work as well," Makhzoumi said. "But there are many good companies there and the market is attractive. It is a matter of priorities and we are looking at the options."

The company has already formed five joint ventures outside of the UAE to facilitate international expansion in Pakistan, Jordan, Qatar and Syria.

"It helps us to get local knowledge and labour costs. Again, we have moved with our clients such as Emaar and their projects into these countries," he added. "In Qatar, we are working on the Al Wahab City in Qatar, which is a major project."

According to Makhzoumi, the major chunk of the company's work is still in Dubai but Abu Dhabi is a fast growing market. Subsidiary Arabtec Construction is currently negotiating with Greece-based Aktor over a contract to design and build a Dh7bn Cleveland clinic in Abu Dhabi.

Arabtec was recently awarded the contract to build the $2.7bn (Dh9.92bn) 400-metre-high Okhta Center for Gazprom Neft in St Petersburg. This has been one of its biggest contracts to date and represents the firm's entry into Russia.

"This is a mixed-use development and Gazprom had invited us to bid and we won," said Makhzoumi.

He said mobilisation is in progress to meet the demands of the project.



(business247)



17 October 2008

* Beirut Cracks Down On Jamming Devices

Importers and traders of jammers and repeaters used to enhance the reception of certain cellular lines have been given one week's notice to remove these dishes or face penalties, ...


* War Zone China?

A new report about U.S. military relations with China has just emerged from a State Department Advisory Board. And not only is it all kinds of hawkish. But the paper comes at the same time that we're loading up Taiwan's arsenal.



The Washington Times describes the paper here. Hans Kristensen at the Federation of American Scientists excoriates it here. But two telling passages need highlighting. First: "In addition to improving the ability to defend U.S. force capabilities targeted by the Chinese, the United States should focus R&D on high technology military capabilities not included in China's military plans -- military systems that will demonstrate to Beijing that trying to get ahead of the United States is futile (much the way [the Star Wars missile defense program] did against the Soviet Union)."

And second: "Washington should also make clear that it will not accept a mutual vulnerability relationship with China -- something Beijing seeks through its expansion of offensive nuclear capabilities. To avoid the emerging creep toward a Chinese assured destruction capability, the United States will need to pursue new missile defense capabilities, including taking full advantage of space."

This sure sounds like a call for a new arms race, and it's a hell of a lot tougher than Secretary's Rice's recent long essay in Foreign Affairs, which noted that "China's leaders .. are moving, albeit slowly, to a more cooperative approach on a range of problems." And, in its toughest lines about the military: "Although Beijing has agreed to take incremental steps to deepen U.S.-Chinese military-to-military exchanges, it needs to move beyond the rhetoric of peaceful intentions toward true engagement in order to reassure the international community."...

(wired)

For some time now no navy or air force has posed a threat to the United States. Our only competition has been armies, whether conventional forces or guerrilla insurgencies. This will soon change. The Chinese navy is poised to push out into the Pacific—and when it does, it will very quickly encounter a U.S. Navy and Air Force unwilling to budge from the coastal shelf of the Asian mainland. It's not hard to imagine the result: a replay of the decades-long Cold War, with a center of gravity not in the heart of Europe but, rather, among Pacific atolls that were last in the news when the Marines stormed them in World War II. In the coming decades China will play an asymmetric back-and-forth game with us in the Pacific, taking advantage not only of its vast coastline but also of its rear base—stretching far back into Central Asia—from which it may eventually be able to lob missiles accurately at moving ships in the Pacific.
In any naval encounter China will have distinct advantages over the United States, even if it lags in technological military prowess. It has the benefit, for one thing, of sheer proximity. Its military is an avid student of the competition, and a fast learner. It has growing increments of "soft" power that demonstrate a particular gift for adaptation. While stateless terrorists fill security vacuums, the Chinese fill economic ones. All over the globe, in such disparate places as the troubled Pacific Island states of Oceania, the Panama Canal zone, and out-of-the-way African nations, the Chinese are becoming masters of indirect influence—by establishing business communities and diplomatic outposts, by negotiating construction and trade agreements. Pulsing with consumer and martial energy, and boasting a peasantry that, unlike others in history, is overwhelmingly literate, China constitutes the principal conventional threat to America's liberal imperium.
How should the United States prepare to respond to challenges in the Pacific? To understand the dynamics of this second Cold War—which will link China and the United States in a future that may stretch over several generations—it is essential to understand certain things about the first Cold War, and about the current predicament of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the institution set up to fight that conflict. This is a story about military strategy and tactics, with some counterintuitive twists and turns...

(theatlantic)


11 October 2008

* Mayne warns Dubai set for "Ecological Disaster"!


Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne has predicted that Dubai will become an “ecological disaster” if development there continues in its current direction.

In a dramatic speech delivered on Tuesday to the World Architecture Congress’s Cityscape Dubai conference, the US architect said the private sector’s dominance in the Gulf state had led to a lack of joined-up planning and that this — combined with the immense speed of development — would lead to a major crisis in the future.

The intervention of Morphosis founder Mayne, who won the Pritzker in 2005, coincided with this week’s unveiling of proposals by Dubai’s leading developer Nakheel for a 1km-tall skyscraper by international architecture firm Woods Bagot.



In his speech, Mayne compared Dubai’s public transport plans with the development of Los Angeles in the 1960s, claiming the “political class” had no control over the built environment.

“There is no connected tissue,” he said. “It might work today, but the prognosis is not good for the future.

“It’s not going to work on many levels, from social to infrastructure and ecological. It’s going to be a disaster in ecological terms.

“The political class is no longer in charge of cities… which means there is no planning. Los Angeles is a prototype for that. The private sector rules. It takes hours to get downtown in LA as there is no public transport.”

Former RIBA president George Ferguson hailed Mayne’s intervention.

“Thank God a star architect has spoken out on this issue because too many are willing to pander to Dubai,” he said.

“It’s a disaster area if all [architects] do is add eco-bling to their buildings instead of dealing with the fundamentals.

“It’s a transport nightmare, it’s an energy nightmare. It is absolutely bloody terrifying.

But directors at Woods Bagot insisted that it and other similar firms were at the forefront of a radical improvement in Dubai’s development.

London-based managing director Stephen Reinke admitted that some “reconstructive surgery” might be needed to fix the mistakes made in the past.

But he added: “Our clients are all embracing good urban design, solid planning principles, and the view that sustainability must be absolutely part and parcel as we approach the design challenges we face.

“Sustainability isn’t just about whether you’ve got a good air-conditioning system that doesn’t use a lot of energy, it’s also about building communities that can be sustainable.

“We’re quite encouraged by the clients and the patrons that we have, and their willingness to embrace these principles.”


Woods Bagot plans world’s tallest tower

The 1km-high tower, by developer Nakheel, would dwarf the 818m-high Burj Dubai, designed by SOM’s Adrian Smith, and currently under construction.

Part of a 270ha development known as New Dubai, the 200-storey building is expected to cost £21 billion and take
10 years to construct.

Instead of a single core, the developer has announced that the skyscraper will have four cores “inspired by Islamic patterns”.

Funding is expected to come from a combination of “pre-sales of land in and around the tower, then project funding”, according to Nakheel chief executive Chris O’Donnell.

(bdonline)

* Market Crash Comments!

"This economy of ours is on a solid foundation." President Bush - Jan. 4 after meeting with the President's Working Group on Financial Markets.
 
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"There is no cause to worry. The high tide of prosperity will continue." - Andrew W. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury. September 1929
 
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"I hope you're confident about our economy. I am.  President Bush. Jan. 30, 2008 at the Robinson Helicopter Co. in Torrance, Calif.
 
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"While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed the worst and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover. There is one certainty of the future of a people of the resources, intelligence and character of the people of the United States - that is, prosperity." - President Hoover - May 1, 1930
 
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"Losing a job is painful, and I know Americans are concerned about our economy; so am I. It's clear our economy has slowed, but the good news is, we anticipated this and took decisive action to bolster the economy, by passing a growth package that will put money into the hands of American workers and businesses." President Bush - March 7, 2008on news that the economy lost 63,000 payroll jobs in February.
 
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The singular feature of the great crash of '29 was that the worst continued to worsen'. - J.K. Galbraith.
 
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"Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom." - Thomas Jefferson
 
 
(ICH) 

09 October 2008

* Syrian Troops on the Border and Long Term Aims

Lebanese media has reported that Syria is massing still more troops on the Syrian-Lebanese border. The move is part of a Syrian effort to rebuild its position in Lebanon.

Syria is reportedly massing more troops along the Lebanese border, according to various Lebanese news agencies. The Arab daily Al Hayat reported Oct. 8 that the Syrian army had deployed tanks to the border town of Al Qaa along Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley. Eyewitness reports from the area said the Syrian army has dug trenches and erected earthen barriers. The reported troop buildup comes in the wake of an additional Syrian massing of 10,000 troops on the northern Syrian-Lebanese border near the Lebanese city of Tripoli, which began more than two weeks ago.

As Stratfor previously has discussed, the Syrian government is signaling Lebanon and the international community that it is prepared to reassert Syria's physical presence in its Western neighbor. Part of the Syrian plan is to use its covert assets and militant proxies in northern Lebanon to instigate clashes in Tripoli, thereby justifying a Syrian military intervention. Damascus' show of force has set off alarm bells in Saudi Arabia and among Lebanon's anti-Syrian March 14 coalition, which greatly fears having the Syrians re-assume the powerbroker status that they held in Lebanon prior to the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik
al-Hariri.

But no group is perhaps more scared by the sight of Syrian forces on the border than Hezbollah, which has seen its relationship with Syria disintegrate following the February assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah. This latest Syrian military buildup is quite significantly on the edge of Hezbollah's main stronghold, the Bekaa Valley.

So far, Hezbollah has remained silent on the matter. The group cannot endorse Syrian efforts to enter Lebanon because it knows it will soon be victimized by the Syrians. Conversely, it cannot condemn Syrian efforts because the falling out between Damascus and the Shiite militant groups has not yet fully come out in the public domain.


Syrian tanks are in close proximity to Al Qaa, a Maronite village from which Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea draws many recruits. Deploying troops next to this village not only undermines Hezbollah security, it also points to Syrian fears that Lebanese forces may be planning an offensive against the Mirada militia of Suleiman Franjiyye, who is one of Syria's closest allies in Lebanon.

Syria continues to assert that the troop buildup is simply its way of watching out for its own security, particularly in the wake of a Sept. 27 car bombing in Damascus and recent clashes in Tripoli (even though many of the clashes in Tripoli have been instigated by perpetrators on the payroll of Syrian intelligence). Damascus intends to show the world that Syria, as well as the Lebanese army, is a victim of terrorism from Lebanon. As the militant threat in Lebanon appears to grow larger (with the aid of the Syrians), Syria will gradually build a case for intervention, much like they
did in 1975, after which Syria eventually received a green light from the Israelis and the Americans to enter Lebanon in 1976. Though the general fear in the region is that Syria is on the verge of rolling troops into Lebanon, sources in the region claim that Syria plans to take its time, gradually build a case for intervention and reclaim its position in Lebanon by spring 2009.

In the meantime, Syria can also see what comes out of peace talks with Israel once the Israeli government sorts out its political issues at home.
Without a doubt, Syria's moves have Iran on edge, as Tehran's main militant proxy in the Levant is under threat. The United States has been the most vocal in its opposition to the Syrian military buildup, revealing an apparent divide between Israel and the United States over the merits of having the Syrians "impose stability" in Lebanon. Whereas Israel is more inclined toward negotiations with Damascus to secure Israel's northern frontier and contain the threat from Hezbollah, the U.S. administration is much more reluctant to have Syria re-empowered in Lebanon.

The Syrians may be on a longer timetable than previously expected, but that will do little to calm the fears of those in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States who want to keep Syrian influence curtailed. Without having made any big, overt moves into Lebanon yet, the Syrians have not run a major risk of provoking these powers into acting against Damascus.
Instead, Damascus is more focused on preparing the world for what it sees as an inevitable Syrian return to Lebanon.

(stra for)

07 October 2008

* Israel: Russia destabilizing Middle East?

"Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has claimed that Russia's 'controversial' arms sales to some states are destabilizing the Mideast.
...
The Defense Minister made the remarks amid claims by the Israeli media that Moscow is to provide Iran with its most advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.

The S-300 is one of the most sophisticated multi-target anti-aircraft-missile systems with a reported ability to track up to 100 targets simultaneously while engaging up to 12 at the same time.

The US and Israel has so far threatened to attack Iran to halt its nuclear activities. Tehran, however, says its nuclear drive is solely aimed at generating electricity and other peaceful purposes.

Israel which is widely believed to possess hundreds of nuclear warheads has so far refused to allow the UN nuclear watchdog to inspect its nuclear facilities.

Iran has declared that while it is not after waging a war in the region it will harshly respond to any attack against the country."

(presstv)

---------

Since when was there ever a stabilized Middle East? or Israel wants it to ever be biased to its side? Why no one talks about the F35 and the continuous arms deals between US and Israel? Doesn't that destabilize the region?
The Russians in fact will bring back stability and balance that were missing since WWII!!!

06 October 2008

* Dubai Cityscape Exhibition...Defies Global Market Crumble!









Visitors look at a model display of new projects by property company Emaar during the Cityscape exhibition in Dubai October 6, 2008. Gulf Arab property firms launched $100 billion of new projects on Monday, but the news failed to restore investor confidence as fears grow that the global credit crunch is biting and the local real estate market overheating.





American actor Michael Douglas, second left, with his wife Catherine Zeta Jones arrive at the Atlantis Hotel for the presentation of 270 hectares Nakheel Harbour & Tower project in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008


From left to right, British actress Catherine Zeta Jones, Craig Kielburger, founder and Chair Free The Children, Manal Shaheen, director of Sales, Marketing of Nakheel and U.S. actor Michael Douglas pose with a Dirhams 7,000,000 equal to $ 1,900,000 donated by Nakheel to Free The Children during a conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Oct. 6, 2008.




Nakheel is poised to build a tower that will be more than one kilometre high, as part of a 140 billion-dirham ($38.12 billion) project that will include the world’s first inner city harbour, company executives said.

FT: Nakheel, which is owned by the government of Dubai, at the weekend launched the project to build the world’s tallest tower and inland harbour. On Monday another government company, Meraas Development, said it would redevelop a swath of the city over 12 years in a Dh350bn project to be called Jumeira Gardens. The intention is that this scheme too should include another of the world’s tallest towers and reclaimed islands off the coast.














(reuters)

Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.