European shares slide after US air strike in Iraq

European shares slide after US air strike in Iraq
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.6% at 0803 GMT, with all the major country indexes well in the red. (File/AFP)
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Updated 03 January 2020

European shares slide after US air strike in Iraq

European shares slide after US air strike in Iraq
  • Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in the air strike at Baghdad airport
  • The report sent jitters through global financial markets

European shares slipped from near record-highs on Friday as geopolitical tensions flared after a US air strike in Iraq killed a top Iranian commander.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.6% at 0803 GMT, with all the major country indexes well in the red.
Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, architect of the country’s spreading military influence in the Middle East, was killed in the air strike at Baghdad airport, prompting a vow of harsh revenge from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The report sent jitters through global financial markets, with Asian shares giving up early gains and US stock index futures sliding about 1%. However, oil prices surged about 3%.
All but one European subsectors declined between 0.4% and 1.2%. Oil and gas stocks gained 0.4%.


Iraq, UAE’s Masdar sign solar power agreement

Iraq, UAE’s Masdar sign solar power agreement
Updated 9 min 15 sec ago

Iraq, UAE’s Masdar sign solar power agreement

Iraq, UAE’s Masdar sign solar power agreement
  • 2,000 MW of solar to be built according to agreement
  • Cost of deal undisclosed by Iraqi Oil Ministry

DUBAI: The Iraqi electricity ministry signed with Masdar, a United Arab Emirates-based renewable power developer, an agreement to build solar power projects in central and southern Iraq, with a total capacity of 2,000 Megawatts, the Iraqi oil ministry said on Thursday in a statement.
The project is the biggest investment in Iraq’s renewable energy industry, the statement said, without indicating its total cost.
Iraq is planning to build a number of power plants in the coming years in partnership with international and Arab companies. Some will use solar energy, while others will run on fossil fuels, including gas that is produced during the extraction of oil, by introducing it into the electricity production system, Iraq Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar told Asharq recently.


Lebanon caretaker PM approves financing fuel imports at weaker exchange rate

Lebanon caretaker PM approves financing fuel imports at weaker exchange rate
Updated 27 min 53 sec ago

Lebanon caretaker PM approves financing fuel imports at weaker exchange rate

Lebanon caretaker PM approves financing fuel imports at weaker exchange rate
  • Lebanon is in the throes of a financial crisis described by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions of modern history
  • Lebanon’s central bank asked the government on Thursday to provide it with a legal basis to lend it foreign currency from its mandatory reserves to fund the subsidised fuel imports

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister on Friday approved a proposal to finance fuel imports at the rate of 3,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, instead of the previous 1,500 pound rate, amidst worsening gasoline shortages.
The weaker exchange rate, which will effectively decrease the subsidy on fuel, is expected to raise the price of gasoline for consumers but enable the government to supply fuel for a longer period of time.
Lebanon is in the throes of a financial crisis described by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions of modern history. Fuel shortages in past weeks have forced motorists to queue for hours for dribbles of gasoline.
Lebanon’s subsidy program, introduced last year as the country’s economic meltdown translated to harsher living conditions, covers basic goods such as wheat, medicine and fuel and costs around $6 billion a year.
Half of that amount is spent on fuel.
Lebanon’s central bank asked the government on Thursday to provide it with a legal basis to lend it foreign currency from its mandatory reserves to fund the subsidised fuel imports, an indication that the bank has all but run out of reserves.
Mandatory reserves — hard currency deposits parked by local lenders at the central bank — represent a percentage of customer deposits and are usually not drawn upon except in exceptional circumstances, with the correct legal permission.
Lebanon’s foreign currency reserves stood at slightly more than $15 billion in March. The Central Bank has not given an updated figure since then. 


Iraq targets 90% self-sufficiency in natural gas by 2025

Iraq targets 90% self-sufficiency in natural gas by 2025
Updated 25 June 2021

Iraq targets 90% self-sufficiency in natural gas by 2025

Iraq targets 90% self-sufficiency in natural gas by 2025
  • Iraq currently consumers 3,5000 cubic feet of gas, produces 1,300 cubic feet
  • Iraq imports the rest of its gas from Iran

RIYADH: The Iraqi Ministry of Oil plans to attract a contractor to invest in Akkas gas field, to produce 4,000 million cubic feet of gas by 2025, which represents 90 percent of Iraq’s need for electric power production, said Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar.

Iraq will need more gas for electric power by 2030 to keep pace with the rise in the population, which is expected to increase by 10 million people to 50 million by then, he told Asharq.

Iraq will still need to import 15 percent of the gas fuel it needs, he said. Infrastructure is being built in the south to open new outlets to import gas from other countries such as Qatar when needed, he said.

There are currently new projects in the governorates of Dhi Qar and Maysan, Abdul Jabbar said.

Iraq currently consumes about 3,500 million standard cubic feet of natural gas, of which 1,300 cubic feet is produced in Iraq and the rest imported from Iran, while the actual need for Iraq amounts to 4,500 million cubic feet, he said.

Iraq is planning to build a number of power plants in the coming years in partnership with international and Arab companies. Some will use solar energy, while others will run on fossil fuels, including gas that is produced during the extraction of oil, by introducing it into the electricity production system, Abdul Jabbar said.

Iraq plans to end gas flaring altogether by 2025, he said.


UAE may become first major oil exporter to target net zero by 2050

UAE may become first major oil exporter to target net zero by 2050
Updated 25 June 2021

UAE may become first major oil exporter to target net zero by 2050

UAE may become first major oil exporter to target net zero by 2050
  • UAE can hit target while continuing to sell oil and gas
  • UAE may announce plan before Glasgow climate summit

ABU DHABI: The UAE is considering a 2050 target to align with a global push to keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, Bloomberg reported citing people familiar with the matter.

If the discussions succeed, the UAE could become the first among OPEC countries to technically reach net zero while continuing with plans to invest billions in oil extraction.

This move would please Western countries pushing for stronger climate commitments but won’t require it to sell less oil.

The net-zero charge is being led by Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the UAE’s special envoy for climate change and its minister of industry and advanced technology.

We are “certainly working on a whole-of-government approach to see at what point it would be feasible to achieve net zero,” Hana AlHashimi, who heads Al Jaber’s office, said on a call hosted by the US-UAE Business Council on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg. “I’d encourage you to stay tuned,” she said.

The country aims to make an announcement before the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November, the people said, asking not to be identified for the privacy of the ongoing talks.

Emissions from burning fossil fuels after they’re shipped abroad aren’t included in such country-level targets. The fossil fuels remain UAE’s biggest source of revenue, contributing about 30 percent to GDP. Still, the nation has taken steps to bolster its green credentials.

Only half of all power capacity is set to be emission free by 2050, consisting of renewables and nuclear, according to the UAE’s long-term energy plan. The country plans to meet the rest of its energy needs with gas and coal.

Climate Action Tracker, a nonprofit that analyzes climate goals, rates the UAE’s policies “highly insufficient.”

The UAE is now bidding to host the UN’s global climate talks in 2023. It’s up against South Korea, which has already set a net-zero by 2050 goal.

The UAE has been a target of US lobbying for stronger green commitments. It’s among the few countries to host special climate envoy John Kerry twice since he took office earlier this year, Bloomberg said.

Kerry expressed optimism that Saudi Arabia will agree to a net-zero emissions target of around 2050 after visiting the nation on his most recent trip to the region.


Fledgling UAE rail network step toward bridging the Gulf

Fledgling UAE rail network step toward bridging the Gulf
Updated 25 June 2021

Fledgling UAE rail network step toward bridging the Gulf

Fledgling UAE rail network step toward bridging the Gulf
  • Etihad Rail will operate 750 miles of track connecting all of the emirates and Saudi Arabia
  • The long-term plan is to be part of a wider railway network connecting all six GCC countries

ABU DHABI: In the desert emirate of Abu Dhabi, Ibrahim Al-Hammadi inspects a freight train on the UAE’s first railway line. He climbs aboard the locomotive, does a final systems check and then it’s full steam ahead.
Hammadi is the first Emirati to become a train driver — in a country which already has a space program and two of the world’s biggest airlines, but is only now developing a rail network to connect all seven of its emirates.
“I was intrigued when I saw the train operating,” the 23-year-old told AFP. “It was something new, and it pushed me to ask around about learning how to drive it.”
The United Arab Emirates is well known for its audacious infrastructure and technology projects. It successfully sent a probe to Mars earlier this year, and the world’s first superfast hyperloop system is planned to link its two main cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
When completed, Etihad Rail will operate 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) of track connecting all of the emirates — from Ghweifat in the western region of Abu Dhabi to the emirate of Fujairah on the eastern coast — and link with neighboring Saudi Arabia.
The long-term plan is to be part of a wider railway network that would connect all six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar as well as the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
A spirit of competition between the emirates, which each have their own specialities and areas of interest, is credited with holding back the national rail project.
“There has been some hesitance from the federal government to spend on national economic integration projects... along with traditional issues on emirate-level sovereignty,” Karen Young, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told AFP.
“The UAE is a federal system and its centralization of authority and economic and development policy within (the federal capital) Abu Dhabi are still relatively new.”


And so far there has been little progress on the multi-billion-dollar GCC railway, which has languished after a feasibility study was approved by the six countries back in 2004.
“The rail projects within the GCC have been in a planning process for years, part of bigger goals of trade and economic integration within the regional organization of the Arabian peninsula,” Young said.
“That integration has faced a number of obstacles, from a shared currency policy that is now moot, to the dispute with Qatar which severed basic investor rights, citizen travel and trade.”
That dispute, which lasted for more than three years before being resolved in January, saw Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the UAE, sever ties with Qatar in June 2017 partly over allegations that Qatar was too close to Iran. Doha denied the accusations.
Hammadi works on Etihad Rail’s first section of line, which covers 264 kilometers and has been operational since 2016.
He drives trains transporting granulated sulfur from Abu Dhabi’s inland fields in Shah and Habshan to the port of Ruwais.
Freight is currently the line’s main focus but as it is extended through the mountains between the emirates of Dubai and Fujairah, the line is also set to offer passenger services that will run at speeds of up to 200 kph (125 mph).
That will provide an alternative to the UAE’s network of mega-highways, some more than a dozen lanes wide, which carry endless streams of motorists in a car-dependent nation, as they zip through canyons of skyscrapers or rocky mountains, and towering dunes.


The UAE hopes the rail network’s supply chain will help diversify its oil-dependent economy.
“Railways have always been a vital component in the economic, social and strategic growth of countries around the world,” Hammadi told AFP.
“It developed the infrastructure in the western region (of the UAE), increased security and safety on the roads and lessened congestion.
“The Etihad Rail project will connect the country’s key centers of trade, industry and population.”
For the project’s first stage, Etihad Rail operates seven locomotives and 240 freight wagons, with each locomotive hauling up to 110 wagons as it crosses the country’s vast desert.
In the Abu Dhabi control room, Maitha Al-Remeithi, the first female Emirati train controller, walks from one section to another monitoring the dozens of screens in the room.
For Remeithi — who started working with Etihad Rail in 2017 — it was her passion for something “unique, exciting and new” that drove her toward the rail industry.
“The railway is growing every day, and as I am involved in the daily running of the operation, I can see its positive impact within the transport sector from safety, environmental and logistics perspectives,” the 30-year-old said.
Etihad Rail says that one full freight train can replace 300 trucks, and cut CO2 emissions by 70-80 percent.
“Using rail as a mode of transport means fewer trucks on the roads; the need for road maintenance is less and CO2 emissions are less,” Remeithi said.