Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Petrobras signs a $300 million equipment deal

Petrobras has announced that it has signed a four-year subsea manifold frame agreement with FMC Technologies. The deal is said to be worth around $300 million, providing Petrobras is going to order all the equipment included in the agreement. The deal contains a clause which stipulates that 75 per cent of the contracted equipment will be ordered during the contract's four-year call-off period.

According to agreed terms FMC will manufacture up to eight subsea manifolds with subsea multiplex control systems. All equipment is expected to be engineered and manufactured at FMC's facility in Rio de Janeiro, with deliveries scheduled to commence in 2012.

"In February Petrobras awarded FMC a long-term subsea tree frame agreement. Today's four-year manifold agreement further strengthens our ability to support their ongoing and future activities, including deepwater and pre-salt developments,"
said John Gremp, FMC's president and chief operating officer.

The news of the deal with FMC comes shortly after Petrobras has agreed to pay out R$1million to the Brazilian securities regulator, following charges of inadequate market notice of an oil discovery, back in 2007.

To find out more about Petrobras, please visit the Petrobras web site, which you can find here.

To find out more about FMC Techenologies please visit the FMC Technologies webs site, which you can find here.

For more news and expert analysis about Brazil please see Brazil Focus.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Total stops gasoline supply to Tehran

Total has issued an official statement, saying that it has stopped gasoline sales to Iran, as a show of support for the international community's efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear programme. Total is the fourth western oil company, who has ceased doing business with the Islamic Republic.

The decision is thought to be linked to the fourth set of sanctions, approved by the US Congress, which constrict US companies supplying Iran with gas and conducting financial business transactions with key Iranian banks.

Industry experts have suggested that international suppliers of gas to Iran could be faced with curt restrictions to the US banking system, property transactions and foreign exchange, and are therefore intent to safeguard their own business interests.

Iran's dependency on gas imports is immense, due to insufficient refining capacity, and the impact of gasoline shortage has already been felt by the Iranian capital.

Shell, LUKOIL, BP, Reliance Industries and Glencore, are some of the companies that have either stopped fuel sales to Iran or intend to do so upon expiration of trading agreements. Repsol said it had pulled out of a contract it won with Shell to develop part of the South Pars gas field in Iran, and has no further plans to do business with the Islamic Republic.

Total who, up till recently, was still in negotiations with Tehran to take part in South Pars phase 11, has said that despite its, “interest in the South Pars 11 project,” the group “has not moved ahead with it” or sees any possibility to do so in the near future.

Source: Reuters

For more news and expert analysis about Iran please see Iran Strategic Focus.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Battle for the Nile as rivals lay claim to Africa's great river

For a decade the nine states in the Nile basin have been negotiating on how best to share and protect the river in a time of changing climates, environmental threats and exploding populations. Now, with an agreement put on the table, talks have broken down in acrimony. On one side are the seven states that supply virtually all the Nile's flow. On the other are Egypt and Sudan, whose desert climates make the Nile's water their lifeblood. "This is serious," said Henriette Ndombe, executive director of the intergovernmental Nile Basin Initiative, established in 1999 to oversee the negotiation process and enhance co-operation. "This could be the beginning of a conflict."

The sticking point between the two groups is a question going back to colonial times: who owns the Nile's water? Kitra's answer – "It is for all of us" – might seem obvious. But Egypt and Sudan claim to have the law on their side. Treaties in 1929 and 1959, when Britain controlled much of the region, granted the two states "full utilisation of the Nile waters" – and the power to veto any water development projects in the catchment area in east Africa. The upstream states, including Ethiopia, source of the Blue Nile, which merges with the White Nile at Khartoum, and supplies 86% of the river's eventual flow, were allocated nothing.

However debatable its claim under international law, Egypt strongly defends it, sometimes with threats of military action. For decades it had an engineer posted at Uganda's Owen Falls dam on the Nile, close to Kitra's island, monitoring the outflow.

But in a sign of the growing discord, Uganda stopped supplying the engineer with data two years ago, according to Callist Tindimugaya, its commissioner for water resources regulation. And when Egypt and Sudan refused to sign the agreement in April on "equitable and reasonable" use of the Nile unless it protected their "historic rights" the other states lost patience. Isaac Musumba, Uganda's state minister for regional affairs, and its Nile representative, said: "We were saying: 'This is crazy! You cannot claim these rights without obligations'." Minelik Alemu Getahun, one of Ethiopia's negotiators, said all the upstream states saw the move by Egypt (Sudan has a more passive role) as "tantamount to an insult".

Ugandans endorse this stance. Ronald Kassamba, 24, scything grass along the banks of the Nile near Jinja, 50 miles from the capital Kampala, said: "Egypt is being very unfair. We have the source, so we should also be able to use the water."

Convinced that from their point of view there was no purpose in more talks, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania signed a "River Nile Basin Co-operative Framework" agreement in May. Kenya followed, and Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo look likely to do so – causing alarm and anger in Egypt. When parliaments in six states ratify the deal, a permanent commission to decide on water allocation will be set up – without the two states that need the river most.

To read the full article please go to the Guardian web site, which you can find here.

Menas Associates has recently done a Breakfast Briefing about Sudan, and the disputes surrounding the river Nile. To request more information about Menas Associates' past and forthcoming Breakfast Briefings please contact us.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

BP gets the go-ahead from NOC

Shokri Ghanem, chairman of Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC), has released an official statement, posted on the company's web site, confirming that BP will be allowed to continue drilling for oil and gas in Libya.

The statement comes just days after BP announced that it has, so far, spent over $2billion in trying to clear up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Talking about the Mexico spill, Ghanem said that the disaster will not change NOC's "confidence" in BP or stand in the way of the deep-water drilling progress in the country.

The Libyan government signed an agreement with BP, back in 2007, which gave BP permission to explore for gas along an offshore tract. In view of the recent troubles BP has encountered in Mexico, there had been talk, among industry insiders, that Libya might void the terms of consent. However, Ghanem has praised the company by saying it had, "huge capabilities, long-standing experience and high-standard abilities," and that it will therefore "overcome the crisis."

BP has stressed the fact that the work in the Gulf of Mexico is ongoing, and that the process of extracting oil is expected to improve in the coming days. BP also said it was too early to determine the total cost of the damage, caused by the oil platform explosion.

Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek

To find out more about National Corporation Oil - Libya, please visit the National Corporation Oil web site, which you can find here.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

IAEA to help Egypt build new atomic energy sites

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Chief Yukiya Amano has said that the IAEA is ready to help Egypt to build new atomic energy sites.

Amano said the Egyptian government had almost finished working out the details of the re-launch of its atomic energy programme, and that the IAEA had offered to dispatch a team of experts to Egypt.

Egypt 's civilian nuclear power programme began with support from the Soviet Union in 1961 but was halted after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

It intends to construct four new atomic plants with oversight from the Vienna-based IAEA.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

Oil minister may limit offshore Suez rigs after spill

Egypt 's Oil Minister Sameh Fahmi has told the press that the government is considering reducing drilling in the Gulf of Suez after crude oil washed ashore for several days.

Oil began to appear on the shores of the popular Red Sea diving resort Hurghada, with a spillage from an oil rig as a "probable cause" of the leak, although an investigation is ongoing to determine the exact source of the pollution.

Egypt produces about 700,000 b/d, and the oil ministry says there are 188 rigs operating in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez where Egypt's largest oil field, Belayim, is located.

The oil ministry estimates that no more than 30 barrels were leaked; a figure which is disputed by environmental activists.

The government has focused its cleaning operation on Hurghada, given its importance to the Egyptian tourist industry. Environmentalists argue that two islands of lesser tourist importance continue to be neglected, and have called for wider cleaning operations in the region.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2010 Menas Associates

Friday, 25 June 2010

Total discovers hydrocarbons in western Nigeria

Total has confirmed that Total Exploration & Production Nigeria, and its partner Conoil Producing Ltd, has discovered hydrocarbons in the central fraction of the Oil Mining Lease OML 136, offshore western Nigeria.

The Agge-3B.T1 well, aimed at exploring an undrilled compartment of the Agge structure, was located in a water depth of 140 mt and reached a total depth of 2,710 mt. The well found several gas bearing reservoirs totaling a gross thickness in excess of 150 mt. A production test performed over the lower intervals yielded a production of 21 million cubic feet of gas per day on a 36/64 choke. Total, is presently, conducting studies to assess further development options for the Agge-3B.T1 well, and intends to do so with all other new discoveries on the block.

Developing the country’s deep offshore resources is one of Total’s key aims. The development of the OML 138 Usan field, Total’s second development in deep offshore Nigeria, was launched in early 2008 and the field is expected to come on stream in 2012. The basic engineering studies of Egina field, located near Akpo on OML 130 are also underway.

To find out more about Total please visit Total’s web site, which you can find here.

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

GE invests 6million in to new Caspian services centre

General Electric Oil & Gas (GE Oil & Gas) has opened a new global services facility, south of Baku in the Republic of Azerbaijan, to encourage economic growth in the Caspian region. The facility worth, $6 million, will employ 14 local personnel, and will provide GE’s equipment repair and maintenance services for new and existing customers in the Caspian region.

“The new $6M investment Baku facility is crucial to the continued growth of our Global Services operations in the Caspian Sea region. The site provides a strong localized presence to help our customers grow their businesses with advanced engineering services and expertise, while also offering increased capacity to meet anticipated growth,” said, Global Services Leader, GE Oil & Gas, Neil Saunders.

The new centre contains two warehouses, two heavy-duty overhead cranes, an external storage facility and purpose built office space. A wide-range of GE drilling and production equipment will be maintained and repaired at the centre, including subsea wellheads, controls, connectors and subsea trees. GE has a vested interest in the Caspian oil and gas industry and says it expects to see major increases in offshore production over the next decade.

Talking about GE’s continued presence in the territory, Chief of Project Investment Department, State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, (SOCAR), Intigam Sadykhov said,“We are delighted with GE’s continued investment in the Caspian Sea region. The new state-of-the-art facility will be of great benefit to the oil and gas industry in the region and, indeed, to the local community.”

To find out more about GE Oil & Gas please visit GE's web site, which you can find here.

For more news and expert analysis about the Caspian region please see Caspian Focus.

© 2010 Menas Associates

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Libya: foreign capital more necessary than ever

The probability that Libya may have disbursed the entire budget of the development programme in a single year, and that it, therefore, requires supporting finance from overseas for the rest of the plan’s period, will mean that foreign capital and expertise will be more necessary than ever if significant changes are to be achieved.

Libyan social security is patchy and under-funded. Saif al-Islam is proposing the introduction of a bank and investment account for every member of the population. By this means, he hopes to create a private sector tranche of assets which would provide families with a minimum holding and enable them to take advantage of rising values on the stock exchange.

As worthy as this is, it appears to foreshadow an enforced savings programme which will presumably impact on all businesses with Libyan employees. It will also add to the burdens already laden on this area from the demands that Libyan labour be employed as first choice.

The increased competition for the most profitable investments in Libya will take place in the immediate future as a result of the heavy drain on Libyan financial resources, and this will probably lead to a greater dependence on incoming investment by foreign companies.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

BG Group confirms success of new well

BG Group has issued an official statement confirming the success of a new well, named Tupi Alto, on block BM-S-11 in the Santos Basin pre-salt, offshore Brazil. The Tupi Alto well is one of seven successful wells in the Tupi cluster and further confirms presence of light oil. The well, drilled by partners Petrobras, BG Group and Galp is located in the Tupi evaluation area, approximately 275 km from Rio de Janeiro.

The area has been tested by Wireline, who have verified presence of light oil at approximately 30° API and said that the reservoir properties were very good across the key Sag reservoir. The statistics collected from Tupi Alto and other wells; support the estimates which indicate potential to generate up to five to eight billion barrels of recoverable light oil and natural gas from the Tupi pre-salt reservoirs.

“The Tupi Alto well, in conjunction with the trend seen in previous Tupi appraisal wells, has confirmed excellent reservoir properties over a wide area in the Tupi field. Appraisal results continue to confirm the reservoir models in Tupi, Iracema and Guara by giving better definition in crestal areas and on the flanks of the fields. The results continue to de-risk the production outlook for these assets and allow us to optimise field development planning and capital efficiency,” said, BG Group chief executive, Frank Chapman.

To find out more about the BG Group please visit their web site, which you can find here.

For more news and expert analysis about Brazil please see Brazil Focus.

© 2010 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Vietnam to build 13 nuclear reactors by 2030

Vietnam’s government has announced that it plans to build 13 nuclear reactors, with combined capacity of 15GW, by 2030. Once the reactors are completed, the nuclear power will account for ten per cent of the country's total generation capacity, said the government, citing a development plan approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

The need for development of nuclear powered generating capacity is a direct result of an increasingly ferocious demand for electricity, in a country which has one of Asia's fastest economic growth rates.

The plan is for the first reactor, with a capacity of 1,000 MW, to be fully operational by 2020 and the second by 2021. The reactors will be built in eight locations in Ninh Thuan, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Ha Tinh and Quang Ngai provinces, with 30-40 per cent of the construction work to be carried out by domestic companies.

The first plant in Ninh Thuan province is expected to cost around US$8 billion, and construction, which will begin in 2014, will use Russian light water reactor technology.

Source: Wall Street Journal

For more news and expert analysis about Vietnam please see Vietnam Focus.

The Muslim Brotherhood make friends with El Baradie

Egypt has witnessed an unexpected development in the last few weeks with the coming together of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed El Baradie. There are a number of factors to consider regarding this somewhat unexpected recent partnership:

> El Baradie has been eager to tap into the religious section of the Egyptian population and this has been emphasised by his regular visits to a number of local mosques and his meetings with religious clerics.

> The former IAEA director general has alienated himself from the secular opposition because of his constant criticism of them and he has therefore making more enemies than friends in the Egyptian political circles.

> The National Coalition for Change (NAC), which was formed by El Baradie, endeavoured to collect over one million signatures in support of the coalition reforms agenda; however this has been made difficult by NAC's lack of popularity and street credibility.

> The MB, have always aimed to be seen as a viable political group, and by aligning themselves with El Baradie it will finally give them the limelight which they have always sought.

> In addition the MB’s new leadership has been accused of political aggression by those outside as well as inside the movement, which has put pressure on its leaders to give the movement a more defined and clear political direction. As a result, an alliance with El Baradie gives the MB a more structured political agenda, and an image of a politically progressive group.

> Most importantly, the MB failed to secure a seat in the recent Shura Council elections which it blamed on the state for impeding its candidates so its affiliation with El Baradie is also a show of resentment towards the regime.

While the allegence seems strong, the MB have, however, declined to comment on whether they will support El Baradie if he chooses to stand in the 2011 presidential elections.

This alliance has led to a lot of criticism from the secular opposition, who accused El Baradie of sacrificing his political ideals for the sake of convenience and shameless courting of controversy. The MB has equally received criticism primarily from the Salafi movement, who have accused the Brotherhood of violating Islamic principles on the basis of their allegiance with El Baradie.

Neither the MB or El Baradie seem to pay much heed to the criticism and they that their alliance will further their respective political agendas. This has, once again, brought to the surface the fragmented nature of Egyptian politics and the the inual party shifts from alliance to alliance for the sake of political ambition. It has also been detrimental to the overall structure of the Egyptian political system which has always seen the secular political parties acting more like fan clubs for leading politicians rather than parties with well defined and clear ideologies

This post was written by our correspondent in Cairo,Dr Mohammed Zahid, who is also the editor of Egypt Politics & Security.

Minister says Caspian spill would be catastrophic

Talking to Radio Free Europe, about the recent sinking of an oil platform in Mexico, former Russian energy minister, Yuri Shafranik, said that a similar leak in the Caspian territory would be "catastrophic". The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which sent trails through the ecosystems of the US South, has been a great concern to the International Community and the Caspian states.

The international community is now looking in to energy policies as a means to prevent a repeat of the Mexico disaster; while Caspian considers an oil pipeline that would bring oil from Kazakhstan to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. Talking about the prospect of such a pipeline, Shafranik issued a warning, quoting research conducted by regional experts, that laying a pipeline on the Caspian Sea floor might prove disastrous.

"Experts have stated continuously that pipes must not be laid beneath the Caspian. And if wells are drilled it must be only under strict international supervision," said Shafranik. The former minister finished the interview by pointing out that safety regulations in the Russian oil sector are decades behind their Western counterparts.

Source: United Press International

For more news and expert analysis about the Caspian region please read Caspian Focus.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Iraq’s electricity minister resigns after thousands protest

Iraq ’s electricity minister, Karim Waheed, has been forced to resign after thousands of Iraqi’s, including local council members, took to the streets angered by continual power cuts in temperatures now reaching 120°F. Waheed’s decision came shortly after a day of violent protests, in the southern city of Nassiriya, during which protesters retaliated by throwing debris at the police. The protest reached fever pitch when two people were killed in Basra, after policed open fire on the crowds.

During the ongoing demonstrations, one of four senior Shi’a clerics in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Bashir Hussain Najafi, issued a statement condemning the electricity shortages and defended the right to hold peaceful demonstrations. The protests over power cuts, taking place against a backdrop of political uncertainty, as the country waits for the formation of a new government, are among the key concerns for Iraqis.

Picked by the country’s Shi’a political coalition in 2006 Waheed spent 4 years in office and even in relatively good times, power supplies were erratic, varying from district to district, with supplies limited to just a few hours a day. Waheed attributed his resignation to political "wranglings" and suggested that his rivals used the "electricity issue” to force him out of his post and achieve their own “political gains."

Source: FT

For more news and expert analysis please see Iraq Focus.

Niger Delta leaders pose security threat to Ghana

The Nigerian High Commissioner in Ghana, H.E. Musiliu O. Obanikro, has described the leaders of the Niger Delta community as a serious security risk to both countries and prompted official law enforcement agencies to monitor the actions of the group more closely.

“Their movements and activities should interest our various security agencies before irreparable harm is done to the good relations between Nigeria and Ghana”, said Obanikro.

Addressing members of the press during a news conference in Accra, about the sudden influx of militants from the Niger Delta region, the High Commissioner described the leaders of the community as iniquitous and “unpatriotic Nigerians” residing in Ghana with no “identifiable means of livelihood”.

The Commissioner urged Ghanaian law enforcement to ensure the group does not engage in criminal activity or form gangs. And in talking about the recent arrival of 3, 000Niger Delta militants he added that, "Ghana should not be used as safe haven," any longer as the crisis period in Nigeria was now over.

The Commissioner also appealed to the media to be more judicious in their reportage and desist from publishing news items from “nonentities, noise makers, blackmailers and nonchalant [people] in the interest of national security and the greater need of the society”.

He incited Nigerians living in Ghana to be peaceable, law abiding, and safeguard the good name of Nigeria, and the cordial relations between the two countries.

Sources: Ghana Web

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana please see Ghana Politics & Security.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Goodluck Jonathan not ready to declare candidacy

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has said that it is too early to announce his decision about whether or not he will run in next year’s presidential elections, due to fears that it might cause unrest in the government.

“Well that is one thing that appears to be dominating political discussions in the country, which has already been captioned in one newspaper, Jonathan run, don't run. It has been a topical issue. I’m not in a position to tell Nigerians whether I will contest now or not because we have a political environment that gets too heated up when people are preparing for elections. So we feel that the best thing to do is to keep our mouths sealed until the appropriate time,” Jonathan told Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

President Jonathan said he would announce his decision before the primaries of his party, after the electoral reforms are completed. His bid to run in the election would contravene the People's Democratic Party's (PDP) unwritten policy to alternate the presidency for two-four year office terms between the mainly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south. Jonathan, a Christian from the south, succeeded former president Umaru Yar’Adua, a northern Muslim who died three years into his first four-year term.

According to official sources many northern political leaders have urged Jonathan to uphold PDP policy suggesting that sectarian tensions, with clashes between Muslims and Christians which have already claimed hundreds of lives since January, might worsen. But Jonathan told NTA that his decision will not be influenced by either external or internal pressures and that it will be up to Nigerians to decide their political affiliation and their next President.

Sources: Bloomberg Business Week, All Africa

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

UN Inspectors denied entry in to Iran, again

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, has told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) it will not permit two of its inspectors on Iranian soil because the IAEA had prematurely published a report he deemed "untruthful" and containing "false information" on Iran's nuclear work.

Salehi said the inspectors will not be allowed into the country or granted permission to visit its nuclear facilities due to a report filed by the IAEA before the official examination.

"These two inspectors do not have the right to come to Iran because they leaked information before it was to be officially announced and they also filed a false report," Salehi told ISNA news agency.

Salehi also stated that the UN inspectors would not be allowed in to the country for disclosing, “classified information,” and said that Iran has asked the IAEA to replace the two inspectors with new officials, who would be allowed to visit the Islamic republic to carry out checks on its nuclear facilities.

The decision comes two weeks after the UN Security Council voted to impose a fourth set of sanctions on Iran on the grounds of its suspect nuclear programme. Iran’s Supreme National Security Council issued a report on Friday calling the new UN sanctions “illegal”. The US and the European Union have also expanded sanctions against Iran, to include a ban on new investment, technical assistance and transfers of technologies to Iran's key oil and natural gas sector, despite strong criticism from Russia's Foreign Ministry.

Sources: BBC News, AFP

To read the IAEA report on Iran please visit the International Atomic Energy Agency web site.

For more news and expert analysis on Iran please see Iran Strategic Focus.

Brazil's World Cup fever

Brazil is the largest country in the world with a single language (no dialects), culture, religion (primarily Christian) and ethnicity. From Oiapoque in the North, to Chuí in the South, virtually the entire country – 193 million – roars in unison whenever the Brazilian team scores a goal in the World Cup in South Africa. The nation is glued to its TV sets: public institutions, the legislature, courts, offices, shops, traffic; everything stops unanimously while the national team plays. Only emergency rooms and public hospitals remain open and functional.

The experience is intensely emotional. Brazil is riveted by the beautiful game. The country’s daily routine changes to accommodate the matches which not only unite the nation but also has wider political implications: if Brazil should win the Cup (for the sixth time!) then President Lula's candidate will be elected by a landslide in October. Lula himself is attending the final game in Johannesburg on 11th July, hopefully of witnessing a Brazilian victory, but if this is not the case then despondency will dominate the country. Laughter in public will be disparaged and a mood of national mourning will prevail.

On its return to Brazil, the team will still be fêted as heroes, but the already controversial coach, Dunga, will be the object of unyielding public scorn until the next World Cup Championship in Rio de Janeiro in 2014. Together with the 2016 Olympics, this will be a decisive moment for the country.

The above post was written by our correspondent in Brazil and editor of Brazil Focus which you can find here.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Iran hangs insurgent Sunni leader Abdolmalek Rigi

Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of a Sunni militant group, Jundullah (Soldiers of God) , has been executed by hanging in front of his victims' families reported Iran's official news agency IRNA. The reports came after several months of interrogations following Rigi's arrest in February while on a flight to Kyrgyzstan.

Rigi, who had waged a deadly war in Iran's southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, was hanged in Evin prison, after the decision by Tehran revolutionary tribunal. The militant leader had been accused of conspiring against Iran and working as an agent for Britain, Pakistan and the US. He is said to have pleaded guilty to charges including armed attacks on civilians and military officials and a disinformation campaign against Iran.

IRNA quoted an official court statement as saying that Rigi was the leader of an “armed counter-revolutionary group in the east of the country ... responsible for armed robbery, assassination attempts, armed attacks on the army and police and on ordinary people and murder." The report went on to say that Rigi's group was "responsible for the killing of 154 members of security forces and other innocent people and the wounding of 320 people since 2003."

Rigi was also charged with forming a “terrorist group which was fighting the Islamic republic." The statement said that the group was “linked to members of foreign intelligence services, including members from US and Zionist regime's intelligence services under the cover of NATO," and to intelligence services of some Arabic countries and counter-revolutionary group People's Mujahedeen.

The statement concluded that Rigi had “collaborated and ordered 15 armed abductions, confessed to three murders, ordered the murders of tens of citizens, police and military personnel through bombings and armed actions," however Rigi maintained that he was fighting against Tehran's Sh'ia leadership to secure the rights of minority Sunnis in the south-eastern Iran.

Source: BBC News

For more news and expert analysis about Iran please see Iran Strategic Focus.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Egypt to restore free zone status to refineries

In what is viewed as an important move to boost the energy sector, the Egyptian parliament has agreed to restore free zone status to oil refineries. The new status is expected to attract foreign investment from international oil companies.

Egypt's government had cancelled oil refiners' free zone status, which gave investors tax breaks, as part of broader changes to its free zone laws in May 2008. The amendments passed on Tuesday 15th June will restore refining companies' exemption from some annual duties, but firms will still pay income tax.

Oil analysts believe the increased costs resulting from the 2008 changes deterred foreign firms, including Kuwait's Al Kharafi Group, from building refineries in Egypt.

The need for refineries is important for Egypt and this new development will contribute to the ever expanding energy sector; along with Egypt's plans to build its largest ever oil refinery with $2billion of Chinese investment to supply the domestic market and export to China.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt please see Egypt Politics & Security.

Shell waits out Nigeria energy sector reforms

Royal Dutch Shell has around $40 billion worth of investments in several deepwater oil projects in Nigeria put on hold due to uncertainty over planned reforms to the energy sector. The company is reluctant to make any commitments without clarity over the terms of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) legislation which will affect the fiscal and regulatory framework in the OPEC member.

"Just looking at deep-water alone, we have a portfolio of about $40 billion worth of projects...but we will not be able to make a move on these until we have a landing on the PIB," said, Country chairman for Shell Nigeria, Mutiu Sunmonu.

The PIB is expected to make state oil firm NNPC more competitive and transparent. It is also expected to promote local oil company involvement in the industry, increase gas supplies to the dilapidated domestic power sector and encourage investment. However, international oil companies are fearful that the bill will impose higher taxes and royalties while overlooking other issues such as under-funding, corruption and security.

The bill, which has already been delayed by revisions and disagreements, has stalled once more as President Goodluck Jonathan and new Oil Minister Diezani Allison-Madueke revisit some of the issues.

Although the new administration has little time to push the bill through, with elections due by next April at the latest, Sunmonu said he was convinced that the differences can be overcome. He had also mentioned to the oil ministry the need to renew onshore licences which had lapsed under the previous administration, and was assured that the government intends to "dispose of all these legacy issues as quickly as possible."

Source: Reuters

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Iran sanctions may result in redirection of oil exports

According to official reports Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan may redirect their oil exports to Russia's Black Sea port of Novorossiisk rather than shipping them to Iran due to the fresh sanctions which include a 'ban on investments, technical assistance and technology transfers to Iran's key oil and gas industry'.

Kazakhstan has been pumping oil to Iran at a rate of 1.2 million tonnes per year. Turkmenistan exports 2 million tonnes per year, but it is unclear how much goes to Iran.

An inside source has said that the Kazakh and Turkmen barrels would be directed through the Baku-Makhachkala-Novorossiisk pipeline originating in the Azeri capital on the shore of the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan also has the technical ability to switch supplies to the BP-led Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. The pipeline has a capacity of 5 million tonnes per year but is only pumping at a rate of 3.5 million at the moment.

Iran earns between $55-$60 billion from oil and gas exports and has already felt the impact of the sanctions when earlier this year Russia's second-largest crude oil producer, LUKOIL, stopped gasoline sales to Tehran.

Source: Reuters

For more news and expert analysis please see Caspian Focus and Iran Strategic Focus.

Brazilian agribusiness exports to Arab countires up by 8 per cent

According to the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply domestic agribusiness exports to Arab countries, including Egypt, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Morocco, totalled US$ 610 million in May which means growth of 7.8 per cent over the same month last year. Sales to the Middle East and North Africa represent 8.5 per cent of Brazilian export sales, which totalled at US$ 7.2 billion in May.

According to Eduardo Sampaio Marques, director of the International Promotion Department at the Ministry, agribusiness exports to the Arabs are maintaining a steady trend of growth.

Among the Arab countries, Egypt was the main market for Brazilian sales in the month of May, with US$ 122.62 million exported, followed by the United Arab Emirates, with US$ 102.9 million, Saudi Arabia, with US$ 100 million, Algeria, with US$ 62.5 million, and Morocco, with US$ 44.5 million.

Sugar, alcohol and meat sector products were the most exported. In terms of sugar, the Arabs imported the equivalent to US$ 263.2 million in May, growth of 43 per cent over the same month last year. In meats, in turn, Brazil exported US$ 281.9 million, growth of almost 10 per cent in the same comparison. Egypt was the main destination for both exports, having purchased US$ 56.57 million in sugar and US$ 54.72 million in meats.

Within the meat division, raw chicken was the main product exported to the Arab market in the month, with revenues of US$ 175.8 million, growth of 13.5 per cent over May 2009. Apart from meats and sugar, Brazil also shipped live animals, soy, coffee, wood, dairy products, fruit juice, tobacco and paper. The most popular products in exports to Egypt were live animals.

“Brazil opened the market for live cattle in Egypt this month. This is very good for Brazil,” said Marques. Sales of cattle totalled US$ 4.7 million. Of the five main destinations for exports, the ones that registered the greatest growth in the month were Egypt, with growth of 80 per cent , the United Arab Emirates, with 11.5 per cent, and Algeria, with 8.5 per cent. Among the less traditional markets, in turn, Syria was the one that grew most in the month (198 per cent), followed by Somalia, with 132.8 per cent, Tunisia, with 107 per cent, Yemen, with 99.3 per cent, and Mauritania, with 83.5 per cent.

From January to May, agribusiness exports to the Arab countries generated US$ 2.67 billion, growth of 14.8 per cent in comparison with the same period in 2009. The main destinations were Saudi Arabia, with US$ 661.5 million exported, Egypt, with US$ 349.2 million, the United Arab Emirates, with US$ 348.2 million, Morocco, with US$ 210.3 million, and Algeria, with US$ 200 million.

Source: Brazil Arab News Agency

For more news and expert analysis please see Brazil Focus.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Libya - Bribery and corruption looks set to remain endemic

Bribery and corruption are endemic in Libya at all levels of the government and its agencies. "Sweeteners" in Libya are part of the culture. The country works on an extended client-patron dependency using family, tribal and regional linkages. Patrons pass benefits to clients through hierarchies. In certain circumstances benefits taken from third parties are then cascaded down the client-patron structure.

The economic imperatives are also powerful in fuelling corruption. With the exception of a brief period in the mid-1970s, government officials have been badly paid or, at times, not paid at all. The problem has been exacerbated by severe consumer price inflation which has rarely been less than 25 per cent annually in recent times.

Poor accounting procedures and loose financial controls have also enabled some to appropriate state funds. The oil business is a case in point, where, for example, there have been a number of Libyan investigations into allegations of corruption affecting the operations of Oilinvest, its Tamoil brand and their subsidiaries.

Former head of the Arab Banking Corporation, Abdullah Saudi, concluded that it was “strange” that the cash holdings of the company had declined so persistently and that the accounting system used by Oilinvest was “odd”. A subsequent commission set up with Musa Kusa, Abdel Hafid Zlitni and Mohammed Ali Huwaij came to similar conclusions. It resulted in one of Oilinvest's senior cadres, who had been in place abroad, being recalled to Tripoli.

This was probably also one reason why NOC's head Shukri Ghanem repatriated the company's procurement subsidiaries – the London based Umm al-Jawaby and Teknica (UK) Limited and the Dusseldorf based Mediterranean Oil Services GmbH (Medoil) - back to Tripoli in 2006.

Bribery is now widespread at the top level for a number of reasons including greed and insecurity as well as the constant shifting of personnel as the internal political tide ebbs and flows.

The condemnation of corruption by the Leader and particularly by his son Saif al-Islam has put the élite, who engage in corrupt practices, more on guard. In a way, however, it has also liberated this class by declaring that corruption is beyond cure. Bribery and corruption looks set to remain endemic until radical change takes place - possibly with the takeover of the reins of power by Saif al-Islam, although even he is not exempt from misconduct.

As long as the people with the power to influence the granting of licenses, agencies and contracts are united the understanding that bribery bears no stigma will remain unchallenged. There is also a low level of sensitivity on the issue because of the lack of a political opposition which could expose those who have diverted State funds.

A widespread pattern amongst those with power has been to become greedy, self-seeking and in many cases financially corrupt. In such circumstances there are openings for forms of high level influence broking. Indeed, it is possible that, outside the upstream oil sector, progress for a commercial deal would only be feasible with illicit payments or side deals.

The best advice for foreign companies is that, quite apart from ethical considerations, involvement in corrupt deals which are associated with individuals who might fall from power or who could become political pawns in a complex Libyan internal political game, carries very considerable risks.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

Iran 'vote riggers' must be tried, Mousavi says

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has called for the trial of those he claimed "committed fraud" in last year's presidential election.

He made the demand in a statement issued on the anniversary of violent protests that followed the vote.

Mr Mousavi also said the police and the military should stay out of politics. He demanded an independent judiciary.

Last week, he urged his supporters not to take to the streets to mark the anniversary to avoid bloodshed.

Scores of people were killed and thousands arrested during the violence that followed the controversial re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on 12 June 2009.

"A fair trial of those who committed the election fraud, tortured and killed protesters must be held,"
Mr Mousavi said in the statement released on his website

'New charter'

Mr Mousavi also announced a "new charter" of policy aims for the opposition movement.
He urged authorities to release political prisoners and to lift restrictions on political parties and social movements.

Last week, Mr Mousavi and his reformist ally Mehdi Karroubi called off mass protests planned for the one-year anniversary of President Ahmadinejad's re-election, saying they did not want to cause the loss of innocent lives.

Only sporadic demonstrations in Tehran and other Iranian cities were reported, amid a massive security presence and warnings from the intelligence ministry that protesters would be "charged as criminals" for "any illegal action and contact with the foreign media".

Mr Mousavi has repeatedly vowed to continue his struggle against the government, even saying he is not afraid to die for the cause of reform.

Source: BBC News

For more news and expert analysis about Iran please see Iran Strategic Focus.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Algeria - Ali Belhadj arrested following protest at US Embasy

Ali Belhadj and three other well-known and respected leaders of opposition movements were arrested on Monday 31st May while protesting at the American Embassy in Algiers against Israel's heavy-handed response to the Gaza aid flotilla.

The FIS, readers will recall, was prohibited from taking power in January 1992 by a coup d'état by the country's most powerful generals. After establishing an overwhelming lead in the first round of the very democratic 1991-92 general election, the military stepped in and annulled the second round of voting, which would have secured the FIS' electoral victory. This military coup d'état took the country into its Dirty War, from which it has still not fully recovered.

The three men arrested with Belhadj were:

> Dr Ahmed ben Mohamed, one of the signatories to the 'Sant' Egidio' National Contract in January 1995. The Contract, drawn up and signed in Rome under the auspices of the Catholic Sant' Egidio Community, was an attempt by the FIS and most of Algeria's other political parties to establish 'political pluralism' and peace. The notable exception to the talks was the government, which at that time had just received both IMF and US financial backing (through Halliburton) and had no desire to end the war.

> Abdelkhader Dehbi, well known for his frequent writings in Quotidien d'Algerie, is a leader of the 19th March Movement. Named after the day of the ceasefire between France and Algeria in 1962, the movement, which is similar to the Rachad movement, was created about two years ago. Its aim is to overthrow the current regime by peaceful means and to establish democratic government in Algeria. Its founder was Sallaheddine Sidhoun, who also contributes to Quotidien d'Algerie.

> Sidhoun is a surgeon who was given a 20-year prison sentence for giving surgical help to the GIA. Instead of going to jail, he went underground. After some ten years, he emerged, made a lot of public noise and went to court, where he was declared innocent! Both Sidhoun and Dehbi were celebrated maquisards (mujahideen) in the Algerian War of Independence.

In February 2010 (see Algeria P&S - 19.02.10), Dehbi, who was a close friend of Bouteflika before he became president, asked him to stand down as president as he was destroying Algeria. The full text of Dehbi's letter can be accessed here.

The fourth person arrested was Lakhdar Bouregaa who was commander of Wilaya IV in the Algerian War of Independence and a member of the National Council of the FLN. He was a founder, alongside Ait Ahmed, of the FFS. Bouregaa was accused of being involved in Tahar Zbiri's unsuccessful revolt against former president Houari Boumédiène in 1967, and was reportedly tortured in prison until released in 1974.

The four men went to the US Embassy after Israel attacked the Gaza aid flotilla and asked to see the Ambassador. A diplomat, whose name we do not have, came out of the Embassy to talk with them. The diplomat was smoking a cigarette. Dr Mohamed asked the diplomat to stop smoking in their presence. He accordingly put the cigarette behind his back before throwing it away. The five men spoke for around 15 minutes before plain-clothes DRS officers, who had been observing the exchange, ordered uniformed police to arrest the four Algerians.

The four were physically seized, one by one, and taken away into detention. Belhadj was taken last and was beaten up in front of the diplomat. According to our sources, his parting words to the diplomat were: 'You do not need to colonise us: that is already being done for you by your puppets.' Belhadj was held in detention for about eight hours while the other three were held for about 2-3 hours.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Iraqi merger forms new Shia bloc: the National Alliance

Iraq's two main Shia groups, which performed strongly in recent elections, have merged to form the biggest alliance in the new parliament.

The bloc, to be called the National Alliance, brings together the prime minister's coalition with other Shia factions, including followers of radical cleric Moqtada Sadr.

It will be just short of an absolute majority in parliament but well ahead of the rival secular-Sunni bloc.

The new parliament opens on Monday.

After weeks of negotiations, the two Shia coalitions announced they were forming one bloc, and said they had notified the acting speaker of parliament.

Constitution unclear

The new alliance is made up of outgoing Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's State of Law coalition - which came runner-up in the March election - and the third-placed Iraqi National Alliance, along with other Shia factions.

Together, they will command just four seats short of an absolute majority, well ahead of the 91 seats held by Iyad Allawi's secular-Sunni bloc, although it came out first in the elections, with a narrow two-seat lead. Karim Yaqoubi, an INA member, said the Kurdish Alliance would join the new Shia grouping to give them a majority.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says that both the Shia and secular-Sunni blocs will now be claiming the right to be asked to form a government. The constitution is unclear on the issue.

In any case, our correspondent says, the Shia bloc has not yet decided who it wants to nominate as prime minister. So the betting is that the first session of parliament will be declared open, and suspended indefinitely until a power-sharing deal is hammered out.

Source: BBC News

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq please see Iraq Focus.

Libya frees Swiss businessman Max Goeldi

A Swiss businessman at the centre of a long-running diplomatic row between Libya and Switzerland has been released from jail in Tripoli, his lawyer says.

Max Goeldi was sentenced in February to four months in prison for violating Libyan immigration rules.

He and another Swiss businessman were held after the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was arrested in Switzerland in 2008.

Libya also took other measures, widely regarded as retaliation for the arrest.

Correspondents say Mr Goeldi's release may allow a line to be drawn under the row.

"Goeldi has been freed," his lawyer, Salah Zahaf, said.

"He is in good condition. He is in a hotel in Tripoli right now and on Saturday we will start making arrangements for an exit visa so he can return home."

An unnamed prison official confirmed the release to AFP news agency.

Mr Goeldi was due to be released on 12 June.

Charges dropped

The row began when Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife were arrested in Geneva in July 2008accused of assaulting two servants while staying at a luxury hotel.

Although the charges were later dropped, Libya cancelled oil supplies, withdrew billions of dollars from Swiss banks, refused visas to Swiss citizens and recalled some of its diplomats.

Mr Goeldi, the manager of an engineering firm, was held along with Rachid Hamdani, who works for a construction company.

They were later released on bail and then convicted in absentia while sheltering in the Swiss embassy in Tripoli.

Mr Hamdani was later cleared but Mr Goeldi was taken to prison in February after a tense stand-off outside the Swiss embassy.

Source: BBC News

For more news and expert analysis about Libya please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

Former senior IRGC officers reveal tensions in Iranian regime

A remarkable series of interviews with former members of the Iran's Revolutionary Guard today offer a rare insight into one of the world's most oppressive regimes.

The four men, who have fled Iran and are in hiding in Turkey and Thailand, speak out in a documentary produced by Guardian Films and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

In testimony provided by the men, at least one of whom was part of last year's crackdown on opposition to the Iranian regime, the film reveals:

> Deep divisions within the Revolutionary Guard, the powerful military organisation at the heart of the Iranian state, which have widened since last year's repression of the so-called green opposition.

> Firsthand accounts of the measures taken to crush the popular protests that erupted in the wake of last June's presidential elections. The men interviewed describe the widespread use of rape and torture by the regime.

> A ruling elite so unsettled by the uprising that it had a plane on standby ready to fly the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to Syria at a moment's notice.

One former guard interviewed for the film says that until he fled the country earlier this year, he was part of the security team surrounding Khamenei. "I want people outside to know what is happening and what this regime is doing to them," says Muhammed Hussein Torkaman. He accuses the regime of betraying the values of the 1979 revolution in an effort to keep a grip on power.

Another former guard accuses the government of filling the ranks of the guards with young men from the countryside willing to carry out brutal assaults which more senior officers would not countenance. "The majority of these recruits ... have no idea of right or wrong," he says. The regime "hands them weapons and these young people come into the streets and commit acts of murder".

Iran's opposition leaders have called off rallies to mark the anniversary of last year's presidential election, in which Ahmadinejad controversially claimed victory. The decision is being seen as a setback for the pro-democracy movement.

Source: Guardian News

For more news and expert analysis about Iran please see Iran Strategic Focus or visit Menas Associates Newsroom.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

UN votes for new sanctions on Iran over nuclear issue

The UN Security Council has voted in favour of fresh sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.

The council voted 12 to two, with one abstention, in favour of a fourth round of sanctions, including tighter finance curbs and an expanded arms embargo.

US President Barack Obama said the sanctions were an unmistakable message on stopping the spread of nuclear arms.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the sanctions should be thrown in the dustbin like a "used handkerchief".

The US and its allies fear Iran is secretly trying to build a nuclear bomb, but Tehran insists its programme is aimed solely at peaceful energy use.

Heavy weapons

The Security Council resolution was opposed by Turkey and Brazil. They had earlier brokered a deal with Iran on uranium enrichment. Lebanon abstained.

The new sanctions were passed after being watered down during negotiations with Russia and China on Tuesday.

There are no crippling economic sanctions and there is no oil embargo.

Those passed include prohibiting Iran from buying heavy weapons such as attack helicopters and missiles.

They also toughen rules on financial transactions with Iranian banks and increase the number of Iranian individuals and companies that are targeted with asset freezes and travel bans.

There is also a new framework of cargo inspections to detect and stop Iran's acquisition of illicit materials.

Mr Obama accused Iran's leaders of "hiding behind outlandish rhetoric".

But he said the sanctions did "not close the door on diplomacy" and he urged Iran to "choose a different and better path".

For the full story please visit BBC News.

For more news and expert analysis about Iran please see Iran Strategic Focus or visit Menas Associates Newsroom.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

'First' Kashmir survey produces 'startling' results

A survey which a British academic says is the first systematic attempt to establish the opinions of Kashmiris has produced "striking results".

Robert Bradnock interviewed more than 3,700 people in Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir to assess their views on various issues.

One of the key questions put to respondents was how they saw the future of the territory.

Nearly half of those interviewed said they wanted independence.

Another question asked for their views over the continuing insurgency.

Dr Bradnock - an associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank in London - says that the survey has produced startling conclusions, especially in relation to the future of the territory.

For the full story please visit BBC News.

Dr Robert Bradnock is a Senior Associate with Menas Associates and has written extensively about the social and political environment in South Asia including Kashmir. You can read a detailed article about his Chatham House report 'Counting in Kashmir' here.

For more news and expert analysis about South Asia please visit Menas Associates Newsroom.

Questions over the current level of Libya's foreign reserves

A remarkable story is emerging which questions the degree to which Libya has assembled a large nest egg of foreign exchange funds that can be deployed in the development of the country's infrastructure. The current assumption, that many billions of dollars have been salted away by the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), the Central Bank, and other state institutions, may be a miscalculation or, at best, somewhat exaggerated

The suspicion of problems with Libya's foreign exchange holdings arises from this week's temporary arrest of a group of senior officials on 5th June and subsequent release on 7th June into forms of house arrest. This isue first came to light earlier in the year when a former senior minister called for an assessment of Libya's losses through peculation and the mismanagement of state funds.

Three individuals, all occupying key posts, were currently alleged to have been detained for questioning. They are - the Chairman of the Central Bank, Farhat Omer ben Gadara; the Under Secretary of Finance, Ashour Khalifa Trebil; and the Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.

It is not clear whether the questioning of the prime minister was only directed at the problem of corruption or whether the involvement of his tribe - the Nuail who straddle the Libyan-Tunisian border - in the migrant labour industry and smuggling across the border to Tunisia were the main items of contention. If it is eventually confirmed that he has been engaged, with other members of the cabinet, in maladministration, then his position as prime minister would be at stake.

Initial information suggests that, of the US$140 billion of funds earmarked for the development of infrastructure in the plan to 2015, around US$60 billion has already been committed despite the requirements for the Plan's future years.

Doubtless the value of the missing assets has been greatly exaggerated because, although corruption is bad in contemporary Libya, it is not quite so bad as to enable such large sums of money to be creamed off the mainstream accounts held by government departments and banking institutions. There has also been no sign yet in the market place that Libya is paying accounts any later than usual and there has been little sign of holding back on investment by foreign companies.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Qadhafi tribe play-down influence

A member of Muammar Qadhafi's tribe, the Qadhadhfah, published two letters on a Libyan opposition website this month defending his tribe against all sorts of accusations. There is a strong perception both inside Libya and within the opposition abroad that the Qadhadhfah are, to all intents and purposes, in control of Libya.

The Qadhadhfah are an Arabised Berber tribe that traces its roots back to a well-known wali (saint), Sidi Qadhafaddam, who is buried in Al-Gharyan, south of Tripoli. They consider themselves to be murabitoun (saintly) and Ashraf (i.e., they claim descent from the lineage of the Prophet).

The tribe moved away from the Al-Gharyan area over two centuries ago. Some settled in the lush pastures of the Cyrenaican plateau but were driven out to the barren deserts around Sirte by an alliance of tribes from the Sa'adi confederation, led by the Bara'sa (the tribe that Qadhafi's wife, Farkash al-Haddad al-Bara'sa, comes from) and the Maghara.

The Qadhadhfah are a small and rather insignificant tribe by Libyan standards, hence the importance for Qadhafi of making strong alliances with other key tribes such as through marriage and by drawing his security personnel from tribes such as the Warfalla.

It is true that the Leader has consolidated the role of the Qadhadhfah in the ruling elite and appointed family members to key positions in his regime. However, this does not mean that he has supported all members of the Qadhadhfah tribe, or that they are all in positions of power.

As the author of the letter asserts,'We Qadhadhfah have a number of officers but they are old. They form just 2 per cent [of the regime].' Simply being part of the Qadhadhfah does not automatically entitle one to special privileges, and many of the Qadhadhfah young are unemployed and suffering just like everyone else.

The author of the letter asserted that the whole of the Qadhadhfah tribe cannot be held responsible for what is happening in the country and that the importance of the Qadhadhfah is diminishing because the Leader's children, who are now appointing officials themselves, have stronger relations with the Bara'sa, the tribe of their mother.

In addition, he claimed that Mohamed Qadhafi, the Leader's eldest son but who has a different mother from his half-brothers and is from Tripoli, insists on appointing his assistants and bodyguards exclusively from Tripoli rather than from Sirte, which is where Qadhafi's branch of the Qadhadhfah are from.

The author recounted how, despite having a masters degree in communications from the UK, he was rejected by Mohamed when he applied for a position in the Libyan Post and Telecommunications Company because 'I am Qadhadhfah.'

For more news and expert analysis about Libya please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Algeria - DRS retakes control of Sonatrach

In a surprise move on Monday 31st May, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika issued a presidential decree firing the former Sonatrach PDG/CEO, Mohammed Meziane and the company's four former vice-presidents who were already in jail or under house arrest because of the investigation into the suspected embezzlement of millions of dollars.

Bouteflika's move would appear to be pre-empting the legal process. However, we understand from our Algerian sources that this move is not designed, as some commentators have suggested, to speed up the process of rehabilitating Sonatrach and getting the company back to business after the scandal that has paralysed it over the last few months. Instead, we believe that it is part of a much deeper political deal,forced upon Bouteflika, which has resulted in Sonatrach being 'retaken' by Algeria's powerful DRS intelligence services.

In this week's Algeria Politics & Security, which will be published on Friday 4th June, we will explain how the appointments of Youcef Yousfi as the new Energy Minister and Noureddine Cherouati as Sonatrach's new PDG/CEO, along with the 31st May firings of Sonatrach's former top management, are part of the battle that has been fought between the p residency and the DRS since before the beginning of this year.

We will explain how these appointments, along with the dismissal of Energy Minister Chakib Khelil, the demotion of the formerly all-powerful Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni, and other ministerial changes are integral parts of a bitterly contested deal which has now seen Bouteflika losing out and having to return control of Sonatrach to the DRS.

We will also explain how and why this deal and the new management of both the Energy Ministry and Sonatrach, far from promising an 'opening up' and liberalisation of Algeria's hydrocarbons sector, is likely to lead to policies which will be damaging to both Algeria and most foreign interests in the sector.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.