Friday, 30 July 2010

Iran signs $1.29 billion gas pipeline deal with Turkey

Iran and Turkey has signed a $1.29 billion deal to build a pipeline that will facilitate the transfer of Iran’s natural gas to Turkey. The deal, presided over by Iranian oil minister, Masoud Mirkazemi and Turkish energy and natural resources minister Taner Yildiz, was signed by National Iranian Gas Company’s managing director, Javad Owji, and Turkey's BOTAS Petroleum Pipeline Corporation Managing Director Fazil Senel.

According to the agreement, the Turkish side will secure 77 per cent of the required funds to complete the 660km pipeline. It is the 4th section of Iran’s 6th cross-country pipeline extending from southwest Assalouyeh to Bazargan border in the northwest.

In October last year, during Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Tehran, the two countries signed an MoU on oil and gas co-operation, particularly Iran’s gas transfer to European markets through Turkey. At present Iran exports 25 million m³ of natural gas to Turkey per day, the figure is expected to increase to round 30 million m³ a day by the end of next year.

Source: Tehran Times

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

Nigeria oil reform bill to be passed by the end of August says oil minister

According to Nigeria's oil minister Deziani Allison-Madueke, the Nigerian government is set to pass legislation to reform the mainstay oil and gas industry by the end of August, and will delay a recess in order to do so if necessary.

"The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) will be passed by the end of August ... Over the next 12 months there will be a lot of aggressive reform implementation of the PIB," said Allison-Madueke in an interview.

There has been some controversy over the PBI expected to overhaul Nigeria's oil and gas industry, and to narrow differences among all parties involved. It is thought that a special committee will be set up to look into and synchronise the interests of all involved before the bill is passed into law.

Allison-Madueke also said that outstanding licence renewals for foreign oil producers, some of which lapsed more than year ago, would be resolved within the next two to three months.

Source: Reuters

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

Hamas leader Ismail Radwan says Palestinian reconciliation is beyond reach

On Wednesday 28th July, a senior Hamas leader, Ismail Radwan said that Palestinian reconciliation is beyond reach, as a result of American interference, the issue of direct peace talks with Israel and Fatah's refusal to send thousands of passports to residents of Gaza who need to travel abroad.

Radwan added that Hamas is ready to sign a national reconciliation agreement but emphasised that it is difficult at the current time given what's happening on the ground.

He did not allude to Hamas' reservations about the Egyptian-sponsored document, which many believe is the key sticking point in reaching reconciliation.

These statements add another twist to the ongoing reconciliation saga; with no clear time plan of when this important objective will be met, leaving everything uncertain and with Egypt unwilling to make amendments to its document, it seems reconciliation will continue to be off the agenda for sometime.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Three killed in an IDP camp in west Darfur

The UN Secretary General Ban Kimoon's office issued a statement saying that the Secretary General is “concerned about the situation in Kalma camp between internally displaced persons (IDPs) supporting the Darfur Peace Process,” and encouraged all concerned to “address their differences through political dialogue and to refrain from any action that could incite violence.” The statement was issued shortly after news that three people had been killed in an IDP camp in west Darfur during a conflict between several rebel groups.

A UN spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, said that the UN has received information from the African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) about the death of three individuals who were thought to be "close" to the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM).

LJM has recently signed an agreement with the Sudanese government in an attempt to quell the conflict that has been raging in Darfur since 2003. The three victims were gunned down during a confrontation, at the Hamadiya IDP camp, between supporters of LJM and supporters of the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW), a rebel movement opposed to peace negotiations with the government.

The Sudanese police have arrested four suspects involved in the conflict. UNAMID is expected to assist the police with the official investigation and will be “closely monitoring the aftermath."

Source: Focus Infromation Agency

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

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

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Qadhafi urges Southerners to remain part of united Sudan

Colonel Qadhafi has said that Southern Sudanese would be better united than independent from their Northern counterparts. Qadhafi, who was one of the key supporters of the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) since its inception in the 1980s, has urged the Southerners to remain united with the North in the upcoming self-determination referendum.

"As for south Sudan, the matter depends on referendum, even though I advice brothers in the south to stay with the great Sudan instead of a dwarf country in the south" said Qadhafi.

According to a number of in-country sources the South Sudan president, and SPLM chairman, Salva Kiir was assured by Colonel Qadhafi of his support for southern Sudan's independence, and informed that if the Southerners vote for independence “they shouldn't be frightened of anybody” because he “will stand with them”.

Kiir added that Qadhafi stated that the British colonial power made a mistake when they allowed South Sudan to be part of the North back in 1956, and quoted the Libya leader as saying that “they should have been separated either to become an independent state or join any country in east Africa”.

Colonel Qadhafi has since reiterated that he would support the independence of South Sudan, if its citizens decide so in the 2011 referendum, most notably in a meeting with Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) leader Khalil Ibrahim, but it appears the Colonel has changed his mind once again.

Source: Sudan Tribute

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

GE reaches settlement with SEC over Iraqi Oil for Food Programme

GE has reached a settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding its involvement in Oil for Food Programme. SEC had found that two of GE’s subsidiaries, along with other subsidiaries of public companies acquired by GE, made illegal cash payments, and in-kind payments of computer equipment, medical supplies, and services to the Iraqi Health Ministry and the Iraqi Oil Ministry in order to obtain valuable contracts under the UN Oil for Food Programme.

SEC has said that GE’s conduct violated provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 that relates to keeping and maintaining accurate books and records and implementing sufficient controls to prevent inaccurate recording of transactions. Based on SEC's findings, GE has agreed to pay a $1 million penalty and to disgorge around $22.5 million in profits these subsidiaries are estimated to have earned.

GE has stated that it is “committed to the highest standards of conduct in all transactions”, and that the business dealings in connection to the Oil for Food Programme did not meet their usual “standards”. GE co-operated fully with the SEC investigation, and has received confirmation that the US Department of Justice will not take any further action in relation to these matters.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Alstom signs an MoU to develop Iraq's electricity sector

Alstom has signed a deal with Iraq for the development and expansion of Iraq's electricity infrastructure. The MoU, presided over by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, was signed by Alstom's chief executive, Patrick Kron, and Iraq's Oil and Electricity minister, Hussein Sharestani.

The deal consists of three major projects. The first of which involves supply of a three oil-fired steam unit power plant at Bassorah in southern Iraq, and 400 kV and 132 kV gas insulated substations (GIS). The second project concerns the revitalisation of an existing gas-fired power plant in Najaf.

And the last project will focus on the supply and supervision of 400 kV GIS substations and 132 kV GIS & AIS (Air Insulated Substations) around Iraq. Alstom is currently in talks with a number of Iraqi authorities about the strategic and practical implementation of the three projects.

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

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Guinea election leader secures backing for run-off

The candidate who came top in the first round of Guinea's presidential election, Cellou Dallein Diallo, became strong favourite on Wednesday (28th July) to win the decisive run-off by securing the backing of a leading rival.

Diallo signed a deal with third-placed Sidya Toure, making him the likely next president following the elections, which are are meant to pave the way for a return to civilian rule in the world's top exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite.

Toure became a possible king-maker after he secured 13.62 per cent of the vote in the first round in June behind Diallo, who won 43.69 per cent, and second-placed Alpha Conde.

No date has been set yet for the run-off between the top two candidates in Guinea, which has been gripped by political uncertainty since a coup in late 2008.

"I express my thanks to Mr Sidya Toure for having agreed to ally himself with us," Diallo said after the pair signed the agreement in Conakry.

No details were made public but sources in Diallo's UFDG party said Toure's party had been promised the post of prime minister and 30 per cent of cabinet jobs in return for its support, should Diallo win.

"(The choice) for the second round is difficult. But our priority is that Guinea should at last launch its economic development. That is why we made the choice (we made)," Toure told reporters journalists after the signing ceremony.

Toure told Reuters last week that he would negotiate with the two leading candidates to try to secure an alliance.

Sixth-placed Ibrahima Abe Sylla's NGR and the PUP former ruling party also signed the agreement to support Diallo, a 58-year-old former minister and prime minister under the late President Lansana Conte.

Months before Guinea held its election, Rio Tinto and Vale surprised many by saying they would spend billions on iron ore projects there. Analysts expect some contracts will be reviewed after the elections but a Diallo victory could ease fears.

"We don't believe that Conde will put together a comparable coalition and we expect Diallo to be the next president of Guinea, barring any unexpected reintervention from the army," said Chris Melville, senior associate at Menas Associates.

"Diallo has spent recent months getting close to members of the transitional government and his victory would provide some reassurance to mining companies that have signed agreements with the (transitional government)," Melville told Reuters.

Voters following orders?

Results from the first round showed the importance of ethnic allegiance, with Diallo and Conde taking votes from their own large ethnic groups - Peul and Malinke, respectively.

Toure's Diakhante minority makes up just one percent of the population but if he can repeat his first round performance, and there is no significant anti-Peul mobilisation, Diallo looks set to win.

"I think that (Toure's) supporters will do what he tells them to do. I don't think there will be a lot fading off," a diplomat who follows Guinea told Reuters.

Conde has opposed all three recent and generally unpopular leaders - Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who seized power when Conte died but was replaced by an interim leader after being shot last year, Conte himself, and Sekou Toure.

European and US observers broadly praised conduct of the 27th June first round vote following months of political tension and wrangling, which included the killing of dozens of pro-democracy demonstrators last year. But the process revealed a number of logistical problems which experts say poll organisers need to fix before a potentially tense and close second round of voting.

Source: Reuters

For more news and expert analysis about West Africa, please visit the Menas Associates newsroom.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

US unable to account for $8.7billion of Iraq's oil money

According to an official report by the US Special Investigator for Iraq Reconstruction the US defence department is unable to account for $8.7billion of Iraqi oil revenues for use in reconstruction. The funds withdrawn between 2004 and 2007, from a designated account set up by the UN Security Council, were meant to subsidise the reconstruction of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The official investigation in to the matter found that despite the fact that some money was spent properly, the nation as a whole often complain that they see little sign of their infrastructure being rebuilt after 30 years of war and terror.

Almost a decade after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime electricity, clean water and sewage disposal remain wholly inadequate with little structural evidence to indicate the rebuilding of Iraq on the whole.

The sums unaccounted for are particular striking given that they cover periods of widely publicised corruption and fraud within the country. The report cited poor record keeping, and said that most of the organisations at the Pentagon that received DFI funds had simply failed to use required treasure department accounts.

Source: The Independent

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

Libya: Security of foreign personnel and assets appears to be improving

Foreign investors appear increasingly to be adversely affected by the recession in world markets. In Libya, foreign companies face problems of slow payment and costly over-runs due to the inefficiencies of local financial institutions. Libya remains one of the most attractive markets world-wide but there is persistent suspicion that the country is being overstretched financially at the present time. Foreign investors are, therefore, tending to pace themselves. According to Arab sources, foreign investment in Libya ran at US$4,100 million in 2008 but fell sharply to US$844 million in 2009.

The security of foreign assets is claimed to be a priority of the Libyan government but the promised law on the attraction and protection of foreign assets has still not been published. This inevitably leaves scope for manipulation of contracts, not to mention exposure to illegal pressures for payments to local concerns. In all, focus of commerce is that comparative security will be sustained but those companies whose products are most in demand will fare better.

Political security appears to be improving and the outlook more heartening than for some time, as General Abdel Fatah Yunis al-Obeidi acquires more staff and better technology in controlling illegal movements of labour into the country. During his recent visit to London, the General made considerable progress for the procurement of new weaponry and monitoring equipment.

The opposition is undermined and feeble so that nothing but isolated and small-scale incidents of lawlessness against the regime can be expected.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Eni begins onshore production from Arcadia field

Eni has begun oil production from Arcadia field, in the western desert of Egypt, 45 days after its discovery. The Arcadia 1X well, located in Meleiha concession has been put into production from the Alam El Bueib formation with the nearby operated facilities of Meleiha.

Eni owns 56 per cent participating-interest in the Meleiha concession, through its fully owned affiliate Ieoc, with the remainder owned by LUKOIL and Mitsui, 24 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. The operator of Arcadia project is a joint venture owned equally by Ieoc and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC).

Eni has stated that in order to fully develop the new discovery, it will drill four more wells in 2010 and 2011, expected to produce up to 3000 b/d. The drilling of the Arcadia 1X well is expected to significantly increase Eni's equity production, estimated at 230 kb/d in 2009.

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

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Editor of Joy FM charged with reporting false news with intent to alarm the public

Acting Editor of Joy FM Ato Kwamena Dadzie has been charged with reporting false information after refusing to reveal his sources to police.

Dadzie was charged for publishing a story claiming that the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) withdrew its opposition to the US$10 billion (GH¢14.54billion) housing deal between the government and South Korean firm STX after some of its members received death threats.

According to General Secretary of the Ghana Journalists' Association (GJA) Bright Blewu, the police interviewed Dadzie after the government denounced the story but he refused to reveal his sources. He was subsequently charged with publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public. He was released on GH¢5,000 bail.

US-based Committee to Protect Journalists has called the criminal charge “outrageous” and said in a statement, “The police should not intimidate a journalist into disclosing his source.”

In Accra, the Alliance for Accountable Governance has called for a repeal of the law on causing fear and alarm, and has expressed concern about the systematic manner in which the freedom of the media in Ghana is being curtailed.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Petroceltic signs new drilling-rig contract

Petroceltic has signed a drilling rig contract with Dalma for their land rig 12. The 2000 horsepower drilling rig is currently stacked in Hassi Messaoud, Algeria, and is set to be mobilised immediately to the Isarene permit for appraisal of four wells.

Rig 12 has been in Algeria since its construction in 2007, and is expected to be on location ready to begin drilling in October 2010. The duration of the programme is expected to be between six and seven months, and will focus on appraising the gas discoveries made on the Isarene permit by Petroceltic during 2009/10. The programme is funded by the US$120 million equity placing completed by Petroceltic in April 2010. Petroceltic has a 75 per cent interest in the Isarene permit in association with Sonatrach, the Algerian state Oil and Gas Company holds the remaining 25 per cent.

“Securing this rig is a significant step towards re-starting drilling operations on the Isarene permit. We expect to drill a minimum of four appraisal wells including at least one horizontal well. Drilling operations are scheduled to start in October 2010, as originally planned, with a view to the submission of a development plan to the Algerian Authorities at the end of this appraisal campaign. We intend to announce results following completion of the individual fracture stimulation and well testing programmes for each well,” said, chief executive of Petroceltic, Brian O’Cathain.

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

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Industry veteran Yagshygeldy Kakaev takes charge of Turkmen energy sector

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov has appointed Yagshygeldy Kakaev, head of the State Committee for the Management and Utilisation of Hydrocarbons, as acting deputy prime minister in charge of the energy sector. Kakaev replaces Baymurat Khojamukhammedov, the 49-year-old former head of Turkmengas, who took over as deputy PM a year ago.

Kakaev, a veteran of the Turkmen oil industry who has survived a series of management purges by Berdymuhamedov, is highly regarded for his professionalism and his personal integrity.

“He's a very nice guy and I think he could stay in his new position for quite some time,” says an acquaintance. His job as head of the State Agency is due to be taken by Ashirguli Begliyev, now head of the agency's executive committee, who has responsibility for overseeing joint venture projects.

Turkmenistan's minister of oil and natural resources, Bayramgeldi Nedirov, has survived his six-month trial period and has been given the job on a permanent basis. Nedirov, who was made acting minister in January after his predecessor Oraznur Nurmyradov was fired for incompetence, will need to keep his head down to avoid suffering a similar fate.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Britain to strengthen trade ties with Sudan

Britain's minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, said that Britain is keen to strengthen its trade links with Sudan despite the US sanctions, and the pending arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir over the Darfur conflict.

"One of our top priorities is to increase trade with different countries around the world, particularly in Africa. The trade we have with Sudan at the moment is very good. Our bilateral trade is well over £100 million but we feel the scope for that trade can increase,” said Bellingham during a conference in Khartoum.

Bellingham told reporters that the oil trade was "very important", but also said that British oil producers were, "lagging behind in the exploration and exploitation of oil all over Sudan," where there is great potential.

It is estimated that Sudan produces approximately 500,000 b/d, and has reserves of 6 billion barrels between its north and south divide. More recently commercial trade with Sudan has been made difficult due to the US sanctions against Khartoum imposed, in 1997, on grounds of cultivating international terrorism.

"There are no UK sanctions, there are US sanctions," said Bellingham and maintained that Britain still wants to see “more UK banks taking a positive view toward Sudan.” In addition to the sanctions, the International Criminal Court (ICC) added three genocide counts to existing charges against Bashir for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Talking about the outstanding arrest warrants, Bellingham said that the British government supports the ICC’s decision and encourages the government of Sudan to “collaborate with the court over the existing arrest warrants,” before adding that Britain does not have an “argument with the Sudanese people," and therefore feels it would be "wrong" for Britain "not to encourage the trade because trade equals wealth creation, jobs, prosperity, sustainability."

Source: Middle East Online

For more news and expert analysis about Sahara, please Sahara Focus.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Anadarko discovers oil in deepwater Tano Block, Ghana

Anadarko has made a significant discovery in offshore Ghana, at the Owo prospect, in the deepwater Tano Block. The discovery-well encountered approximately 174 net feet of oil pay in two zones of stacked Turonian-age reservoir sands contained within a gross vertical reservoir interval of more than 500ft.

Anadarko has an 18 per cent share in the deepwater Tano Block. Tullow is the operator with a 49.95 per cent share, the other two international co-owners in the discovery have 18 per cent interest and 4.05 per cen interest respectively, with 10 per cent carried-interest belonging to Ghana National Petroleum Corporation.

"Building on the success of Jubilee and Tweneboa, Owo marks the partnership's third substantial discovery offshore Ghana and continues to enhance the gross resource potential of this prolific area and validate the quality of our geologic models. We plan to continue an active drilling program offshore Ghana through the end of this year and into 2011 with multiple appraisal wells planned for both the Tweneboa field and now the adjacent Owo discovery,” said, Anadarko's vice president for worldwide exploration, Bob Daniels.

The Owo-1 well has been drilled to a total depth of approximately 12,765 feet in about 4,685 feet of water. The partnership intends to carry out research in order to finalise a strategic development plan. After the tests are completed, the rig will be mobilised to drill the Onyina prospect also located on the deepwater Tano Block.

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

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Iran and Iraq expected to expand economic ties

Iran's vice president's deputy Ali Agha-Mohammadi has met with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, while on a visit to Baghdad. During the meeting the two sides discussed plans to expand mutual economic ties.

The officials negotiated about removal of obstacles and acceleration of tradespersons' visits. Maliki highlighted that Iraq is keen to form a strong working relationship with the Iranian government and pursue a number of collaborative projects in the electricity and oil trade. He also pointed out that Iraq will be taking major steps toward reconstruction of its economy, once the new government is in place.

Maliki called for greater participation of Iranian firms in Iraq's economic plans, and was told by Agha-Mohammadi that Iran supports the Iraqi government and its efforts in maintaining stability and achieving prosperity.

Source: Tehran Times

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

Nigeria: Four kidnapped journalists released unharmed

The Nigerian National Union of Journalists (NUJ) reported on 18th July that four local journalists who were kidnapped in Abia State one week earlier had been released unharmed. According to Assistant Commissioner Emmanuel Ojukwu, four suspects have been taken into custody in connection with the kidnapping. The NUJ reports that no ransom was paid.

The kidnapping of journalists in south-eastern Nigeria – of which this is the second incident in 2010 – has attracted greater media scrutiny than the escalation of criminally-motivated kidnapping outside the core Niger Delta states (Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers).

Abia State and neighbouring Akwa Ibom State have been especially affected by the displacement of former militants from the core Niger Delta area since 2009 and their subsequent engagement in criminal kidnappings and armed robberies in neighbouring areas.

The high profile of these kidnappings - and clear expressions of the government’s outrage – may have contributed to a more effective police effort to recover the hostages and the relatively swift release of the journalists.

However, the capabilities of local police forces in Abia and Akwa Ibom States remain limited and are unlikely to be sufficient to produce a sustainable reduction in kidnapping risks in the short-term.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Libya: Repeat of Ramadan controversy as dates look to be different from the rest of Islamic world

The start of the coming holy month of Ramadan may be a troubled occasion. This month, the Libyan Centre for Remote Sensing and Space Science, the official body responsible for calculating the dates of religious occasions linked to the lunar calendar, announced that Ramadan would start on 11 August and Eid on 9 September. Yet again these dates look likely to be different from those chosen by the rest of the Islamic world.

This issue prompted major anger last Eid, as many Libyans, led by outspoken preachers, refused to celebrate on the official date and decided instead to wait for the next day in order to be in line with the rest of the Islamic world. In a show of mass public defiance, people stayed away from the mosque on the official date and carried on as normal.

Given the strength of feeling over this issue and the repeated criticism that the Centre has come in for from preachers who were removed from their posts for questioning state policy but later reinstated after Saif al-Islam stepped in, setting Ramadan and Eid at a different time once again is a provocative gesture on the part of the state. Another display of public protest may well be on the cards.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Friday, 23 July 2010

BREAKING NEWS: French and Algerian forces in failed attack on AQIM

As we write Algeria Politics & Security on the evening of Thursday 22nd July, we are receiving reports that an attempt to liberate the elderly French hostage Michel Germaneau during the course of last night (21st) or early this morning (22nd) may have gone disastrously wrong. As we mentioned last week, Germaneau was being held hostage by Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb's (AQIM) Abdelhamed abou Zaïd. Our own information, as we have reported on numerous past issues, is that he was being held in the Tigharghar Mountains just east of Tessalit in northern Mali.

We have confirmation that there was a lot of air traffic around the airstrip at Tessalit during the course of 21st July and at dawn on 22nd July. Shots were heard. We have unconfirmed reports that the attack to liberate Germaneau was undertaken by Algerian forces with back-up from the French Special Forces. Paris has so far said nothing, although an earlier report from the French Foreign Ministry said Paris was working to free Germaneau but would remain discreet about its methods to ensure success.

Algeria is obliged to deny the involvement of its forces, as such involvement, especially alongside French forces, would be 'political suicide' for the Algerian regime. An Algerian security source told Reuters on 22nd that "Algeria has not and will not fight terrorism outside its territory. This is a golden principle and we stick to it."

Unconfirmed reports lead us to believe that Germaneau may have been executed during the course of the botched operation. Spain, which was apparently informed of proceedings, albeit at the last minute, is concerned about the welfare of its two nationals held hostage by the same group.

The first online report was carried by Reuters at 18.01 pm GMT, which you can find here.

The second report came from Spain's El Pais, which quoted diplomatic sources as saying that French special forces had staged a dawn attack aimed at freeing Germaneau, killing six terrorists but finding no sign of the hostage or of the base where he was believed to be held, and which they had located with US help.

Interestingly, the first breaking news of this story appears to have come from Nouakchott. We are also now receiving unconfirmed reports of unspecified Mauritanian involvement in the exercise.

The latest information we are receiving from political blog sites in Algeria is growing anger at the awareness that the Algerian security forces have fought alongside French forces against other 'African' peoples (in this case many Algerians), irrespective of the fact that they are 'terrorists'. We are in contact with residents of Tessalit and the surrounding area and will provide fuller details as we receive them.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Egypt attends Kabul Conference on Afghanistan

In a significant move, Egypt participated at the Kabul International Conference on Afghanistan which was held on 20th July, and it provided advice on how best to tackle terrorism, given the growing problem in Afghanistan.

The Egyptian delegation included representatives from Al Azhar, which is to start religious training programmes in Afghanistan, to tackle extremism and terrorism. This has the backing of the Al Azhar's head Dr Ahmed el Tayyib, who has made it an integral part of his work to fight extremism and terrorism, not only in Egypt, but across the Muslim world.

Egypt's participation is important because it extends its role into the wider Muslim World beyond the parameters of the Arab World, where it has been facing a decline in influence, given its failure to unite the Palestinians and re-start the stagnant Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

It appears that Egypt is aiming to extend its influence in the Muslim world, with recent initiatives to boost ties with Pakistan and India. This increases its role as a potent actor in the wider non Arab Muslim world where it is in competition with Turkey and Iran.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Unipec ventures in to Nigeria crude oil sales

Sinopec's trading arm Unipec has began selling large consignments of Nigeria crude oil previously marketed by Addax. Sinopec Group, parent of Sinopec Corp, bought Addax in June 2009 for $7.24 billion in order to increase its presence in West Africa.

Industry tracking technology shows shipments of Antan and Okwori crude oil being sold and exported from Nigeria last September. "This is the first time we've seen Unipec controlling these cargoes. It makes them more of a seller than before," said a Nigerian oil trader.

Earlier this month, Sinopec Group said it had struck high flows of oil at an offshore Nigerian block previously owned by Addax. The UDELE-3 well of Block 137, in the Niger Delta, was the first exploration well Sinopec drilled in Nigeria this year after its acquisition almost a year ago.

Source: Reuters

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

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

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Nigeria to double its oil production by 2030 says SPE

Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) has said that Nigeria could double its oil production to 4 billion b/d by 2030. Talking at the SPE's 34th conference, in Calabar, chairman of the Nigeria Council, for the international body of petroleum industry professionals, Anthony Abolarin, said that Nigeria is the most lucrative oil producer in Africa, and that it's trade is set to double from 2 billion b/d to 4 billion b/d in the next 2 decades.

“We know the environment, we employ local people and so we become part of the fabric of the communities in which we do business. Ultimately, we are committed to Nigeria for the long-term and it is this that is absolutely key to any company that plans to reap the benefit of high returns in the country,” said Abolarin.

Talking about the forthcoming SPE NAICE, one of the largest upstream oil and gas event in Africa, held annually in Nigeria, Abolarin said that the conference will aim to chart the right course of action towards a sustainable future for the African oil industry.

“We hope to bring to the fore at this conference, issues that will shape the industry development for the benefit of policy makers, entrepreneurs, professionals and the public as they plan for the prevailing and future scenarios in the energy industry,” he said.

The SPE NAICE conference will be hosted by President Goodluck Jonathan, and is expected to be attended by a number of African dignitaries, ministers and the president of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos, the President of Ghana, John Atta Mills and the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

Source: Daily Independent Nigeria

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

Eni in talks with President Aliyev about CNG project

Eni's CEO, Paolo Scaroni, has met with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, and several other government officials, to discuss Eni's come back to Azerbaijan's upstream sector, and the compressed natural gas (CNG) project. Eni plans to appeal for a permit that would enable the company to transport several billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas across the Caspian Sea to the coast of Azerbaijan, from where it would then be transported through an overland pipeline to other destination ports.

Scaroni has recently met with Russian, US and EU government officials to deliberate the financial and commercial aspects of the project which is the first of its kind to be studied in the Caspian region, and would permit a substantial reduction of gas flaring in Turkmenistan.

The technology involved allows transportation of high pressure gas (not liquefied) by specialist containment systems within the vessels, and allows feasibility of projects otherwise not achievable with traditional technologies such as transport by pipeline or liquefied natural gas (LNG).

To find out more about Eni please visit Eni'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

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Dana Petroleum signs agreement with BG to acquire 50 per cent interest in the El Manzala

Dana Petroleum has signed an agreement with BG to acquire a 50 per cent interest in the El Manzala concession, located in the Mediterranean Sea, offshore Egypt. The concession is a large production sharing contract (PSC) area, covering some 630sq km, situated in the offshore Nile Delta region.

Dana will finance the cost of the next exploration well up to an agreed cap in order to earn the 50 per cent interest. The company has assessed that this area is prospective in both the Pliocene play, analogous to Dana's two gas discoveries in the West El Burulus concession (WEB-1 and Papyrus), as well as having further potential in the deeper high pressure horizons. The deal is subject to standard regulatory procedure, and will add significantly to Dana's expansion in Egypt's offshore Nile Delta region.

“We look forward to working with BG, 50/50 in this large concession in the eastern part of the Nile Delta, with a plan to drill in early 2011. This further extends Dana's strategic position and growth opportunities across Egypt, where we are already 50/50 partners with Gaz de France in the western area of the Nile Delta, together having made two gas discoveries with our first two wells at WEB-1 and Papyrus. Dana is also 50/50 partners with Apache in the Western Desert where the group has made, and successfully brought onstream, several oil discoveries," said, Dana's chief executive, Tom Cross.

To find out more about Dana Petroleum please visit Dana Petroleum's web site, which you can find here.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

GIA go bust after government withdraws support

Ghana International Airlines (GIA) officials have confirmed that the airline has gone bust with less than GH¢200 in its bank account. The airline's head of costs and accounting has expressed disappointment that the government has decided to withdraw its support for GIA instead of exploring alternative options to deal with the airline's plight.

GIA CEO Gifty Annan-Myers meanwhile has described the government's claim that it was unaware of GIA staff salary arrears as false and misleading. She insists that several letters have been sent to the ministry over the past few weeks and they could not have been unaware that workers had not received their salaries for the past three months.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Roxi Petroleum vows to continue assessing potential of Ravninnoe

Roxi Petroleum has released a report detailing the initial results of a 90-day production test on Well 20, located in the Ravninnoe field, Kazakhstan. The oil producer drilled in November and December 2009, and found that the well had failed to respond to an acid stimulation of the dolomitic section. Despite the acid being successfully pumped, there has been little improvement from production testing which currently equates to around 120 b/d.

The company has said that testing will continues until the end of July, and Ravninnoe Oil LLP has appealed to the Kazakh Ministry of Oil and Gas to put the well onto continuous production and further evaluate the reserves on the Ravninnoe field.

Roxi Petroleum’s other operations, however, are making solid progress. In the BNG contract area, approximately 40km east of Tengiz, the company put its first well, Well 54, on the South Yelemes field into test production in Q1, which delivered 200 bpd in line with expectations. The second well, Well 805, will be production tested over the second half of this month, with the well testing the Jurassic sands and Lower Cretaceous dolomites, while a third well, Well 806, will spud in the next two weeks, again targeting the Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous intervals. Production of more than 1,000 bpd is expected by the end of the year.

"Whilst Well 20 on Ravninnoe has proved to be challenging, we will continue to assess the potential of this field and address how best to unlock its reserves. In the meantime, we look forward to getting the appraisal results on South Yelemes this summer, and then moving ahead, identifying the resource potential in BNG," said Max Petroleum’s CEO, David Wilkes.

To find out more about Roxi Petroleum please visit Roxi Petroleum’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

Tariq Aziz handed over to Iraqi government by the US

Fifty-five members of the Saddam Hussein regime were handed over to the Iraqi government by American forces this month when the last remaining US-run detention facility, Karkh Prison, was placed under the control of Iraq. Among the prisoners handed over was Saddam’s well-known deputy, Tariq Aziz.

Aziz surrendered to US forces in 2003 and has been in prison ever since, serving a sentence for the killing of 42 Iraqi merchants accused in 1992 of profiteering under the sanctions regime. He suffered a stroke in prison in January.

Aziz’s lawyers have expressed their concerns that he and the other detainees are in danger now that they are in the hands of the Iraqi authorities. Despite assurances from the government that the men will be treated “fairly, transparently and truthfully” there are fears that they will be tortured. It seems fairly clear that the Iraqi authorities will press ahead with trying the men in court and going by past experience it seems highly likely that Aziz and other figures of importance will end up facing the death penalty.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Iraq to alter signature bonus for Rumaila oil field

Iraqi government has implored BP and its Chinese partner CNPC to turn their signature bonus for Rumaila oil field into an unrecoverable, lower payment rather than a soft loan.

"We have asked from them (BP and CNPC) to convert the $500 million recoverable to $100 million unrecoverable... in line with the rest of the contracts. If it stayed as a soft loan, we have to get parliament's approval for it, and there is no (functioning) parliament right now," said, director of Iraq's oil ministry's licensing office, Abdul-Mahdy al-Ameedi.

Additionally, Iraqi oil minister Hussein al-Shahristani urged international oil producers to honour the contracts they have signed, and said that they needed to,"prove to the whole world that your are able and committed to implement these deals".

BP and CNPC paid a $500 million signature bonus due on the contract they won last year, to develop Iraq's Rumaila oil field. There were 11 contracts awarded in total, several to other international oil companies including Shell and Exxon Mobil who promised to add around 10 million b/d of capacity to Iraq's existing 2.5 million b/d by 2017.

Source: Reuters

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

Petrobras strikes oil in onshore well in Brejo Grande field, Brazil

Petrobras has discovered oil in a Brazilian onshore well, located in the Brejo Grande field. The find, in the 3BRSA849DPSE well, has undergone preliminary assessment, but it is yet to be determined whether the well can be exploited commercially.

The news of the discovery comes shortly after Petrobras' announcement of declining figures for its June and overall production in 2010. In June the average total oil, NGL and natural gas production, including international production totalled at 2,563 thousand boe/d, compared with 2,599 thousand boe/d in the month of May.

Oil and NGL production in Brazil reached 1,978 thousand barrels b/d, 2.1 per cent lower than May production of 2,020 thousand b/d. Petrobras has said that the difference in production output is due to the production-scheduled stoppage in P-43 unit, in the Barracuda field.

Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek

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

Eni begins operations in Tuna field off the coast of Egypt

Eni has begun gas production in the Tuna field, within the Temsah concession, located in the Mediterranean sea off the coast of Egypt. It is expected that by September, the project will yield around 4.5 million scm/day, and will contribute approximately 8,500 be/day to Eni's equity share production.

Eni owns a 50 per cent of the Temsah concession with the remaining 50 per cent owned by BP. Petrobel, a joint operating company owned by International Egyptian Oil Company (IEOC) and Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), is the operator of the Tuna project. The project consists of a new 4 leg platform in approximately 80 meters of water, three producing wells and 14km of 24" pipeline connecting to an existing infrastructure.

Eni's activities in the Temsah concession, one of the most lucrative in Egyptian waters, with production in excess of 170,000 b/d, continue with ongoing campaign of infill drilling in Temsah, and development of the Denise B field, which is expected to begin production in 2011.

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

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Monday, 19 July 2010

MOG terminates Max Petroleum’s Astrakhanskiy license

Max Petroleum has receive a dispatch from Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Oil and Gas (MOG) informing the company of the government’s decision to terminate Max Petroleum’s subsoil use license for the Astrakhanskiy Block in Western Kazakhstan. The agreement was said to be terminated due to Max Petroleum’s failure to comply with certain work obligations, stipulated under the license.

It is thought that MOG’s decision reflects a greater change in the treatment of subsoil use licenses. The decision does not affect the company's key asset, the Blocks A&E license area. The news of the termination comes shortly after the company’s decision to put on hold drilling of an exploration well, without a partner.

Max Petroleum has received assurances from its senior lender, Macquarie Bank Limited, and the holders of greater than 85per cent of its convertible bond holders that a termination of the Astrakhanskiy License would not constitute an event of default under the company's outstanding debt agreements. The company has expressed that it considers MOG's action as a preemptive one and is trying to arrange negotiations with MOG to discuss alternatives.

To find out more about Max Petroleum please visit Max Petroleum’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

RWE signs $3.6 billion gas project deal with Egypt

RWE has signed a $3.6 billion deal with the Egyptian government for developments in the North Alexandria and West Mediterranean Deep Water concessions. The agreement was approved by the Egyptian Cabinet and the Egyptian Parliament, in Cairo, was signed together with the Egyptian Petroleum minister, Sameh Fahmy, the Egyptian state-owned company EGPC and the operator BP.

RWE's share of the North Alexandria and West Mediterranean Deep Water concessions equates to around 50 billion cubic metres of natural gas, and is the largest single investment for the upstream company to date.

“Our aim is to proceed with this field development at a rapid pace, so that we can go into production by 2014. Amongst other field development projects of RWE Dea, such as Breagh in the United Kingdom and Gjøa in Norway, North Alexandria will make a substantial contribution to the company's growth target, which is to double production over the next five years,” said Thomas Rappuhn, chief executive officer of RWE.

The concessions located in the offshore region of the West Nile Delta, some 40km off the coast of Egypt, include the Raven natural gas fields in the high-temperature and high-pressure depth domain which extends into the West Mediterranean Deep Water concession. A majority of the total investment, around $ 9 billion, will be spent in the North Alexandria concession. The investment will be split between BP (60 per cent) and RWE (40 per cent) respectively.

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

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

OGX discovers presence of hydrocarbons on block BM-C-40

OGX has made a new discovery while reviewing the column and net pay section of the Albian. The discovery was made in the same section of well 1-RJS-OGX-14, located on block BM-C-40, in the shallow waters of the southern part of Campos Basin, Brazil. OGX is the sole owner of BM-C-40, holding a 100 per cent stake in the block.

The oil producer found presence of hydrocarbons in the Albian section of the well, and has since carried out extensive research including drilling, logging, sampling and pre -tests in order to gain a better a understanding, and identification, of the discovery. The column and the net pay of discovery previously announced were reviewed from 60 to nearly 90 meters, and from 22 to about 35 meters respectively. Additionally, OGX have identified a new oil column of about 55 meters and net pay around 27 meters in carbonate reservoirs.

"The size of discoveries made this well reinforces the importance of our blocks located further north in the Campos Basin. This result is so good that additional drilling in this area became a priority," said OXG General Director, Paulo Mendonça.

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

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Ramadan coincides with pending unrest among the independent trade unions

The government is already worried about this year's Ramadan, notably the coincidence (10th September) of Aid El Fitr (the festival marking the end of Ramadan), the start of the new school year, and the likelihood of renewed unrest among the independent trade unions.

Much of the social unrest that has been sweeping the country on a more or less continuous basis over the last couple of years is related to people's living conditions, in which food prices play a major role. Hence the government's fear that the country's highly corrupt meat market will be manipulated, as is usual, to ramp up prices (and hence profits) over the Ramadan period. The government is, therefore, making efforts, without any clear signs of success, to import meat from the Sudan, India and almost anywhere else it can find it, in a bid to stop market manipulation.

The tradition of Ramadan is that it is period when prices go down, through various means including charitable provision, to assist the poorer elements of society. In Algeria, it appears that this tradition has been effectively reversed since 1992. With the ultimate corruption of the state in 1992, the regime has progressively lost whatever control it ever had over either prices or the semblance of an open market. The meat market across the country is estimated to be in the hands of some 80-90 people whose identities are not widely known but who are commonly believed to be closely linked to the country's 200 or more 'Generals', including and especially those in the DRS.

Thus, as elements within the government, fearing that a meat shortage and price manipulation could spark the unrest that the government most fears, are trying to ramp up and subsidise meat imports as a matter of urgency, the 'Generals' market', as it is known, appears bent on using the Ramadan shortage to once again cream off its unwarranted profits.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Friday, 16 July 2010

Inquest in to death of Egyptian billionaire finds no foul-play

In June 2007 Egyptian billionaire, Dr Ashraf Marwan, was found dead in his central London home. Marwan fell from the balcony of his fourth-floor flat in central London. The exact circumstances surrounding his death were unclear.

In 2002, five years prior to his death, Marwan had been exposed as a spy by historian Ahron Bregman. Talking about the Egyptian billionaire, Bregman said that Marwan was a double agent who tried to warn Israelis about the impending Egyptian attack that became the Yom Kippur war.

"Dr Marwan was a master spy - he was involved with the Israelis since 1969. In my view, he misled them - he worked for Egypt. He was involved with the Italians since 1971 and with the Americans since 1975,” said Bregman.

There were speculations about the circumstances of Marwan's death, fears of suicide and the possibility of assassination. But a recent inquest in central London returned an open verdict on the billionaire's death. Dr William Dolman, assistant deputy coroner for Westminster, said there was no evidence to suggest that Marwan committed suicide, and further added that Marwan did not exhibit any signs of "mental or psychiatric disorder". According to Bregman, however, the Egyptian billionaire was terrified by the thought of assassination, which played heaving on his mind.

"He mentioned at least twice to me that he was afraid and concerned about assassination. He even mentioned Mossad, and I said to him at the time, and I still believe now, that it is not in the interests of an organisation like Mossad to assassinate him because it would make it more difficult to recruit more spies," said Bregman.

The coroner, however, found no evidence of foul-play, Mossad involvement or murder. Two witnesses, both former business associates of Marwan, told the inquest that they had seen the businessman step to his death from his balcony.

Source: BBC News

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

Frenchman abducted in northern Niger

The situation is very different south of the Algerian border. On the evening of 21 April, within 24 hours of the much-hyped opening of the joint command headquarters at Tamanras­set (SF 2010.01) and an Algerian announce­ment that there would be 75,000 troops in the area by 2012, a Frenchman and his Algerian driver were kidnapped near Teguidda-n-Tessemt, in northern Niger.

The two men had driven south from Tamanras­set and through the In Guezzam border post. The Frenchman, Michel Germaneau, aged 78, is retired and wanted to check on the progress of a school being built at In Abangerit by a charity with which he is associated. His driver, Abedine Ouaghe (known as Dino), is an Algerian from Tamanrasset who works with his brother's tour­ism agency in Agades.

Niger security sources stated that the two were abducted by Taleb Abdoulkrim's group, which claims to be part of that Al Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) but until now has not been involved in hostage taking. ('Taleb' is the Arabic word for an Islamic cleric.)

Abdoulkrim is the leader of the mosque at Inhal­lil and is allegedly known for violent sermons advocating the supremacy of Islam. Inhallil is the small Mali frontier settlement adjoining Bordj Mokhtar and only a short distance north of Abdelhamid Abou Zaïd's AQIM base in the Tigharghar mountains.

On 6 May, Al Jazeera cited a statement from AQIM that claimed responsibility for this latest hostage taking. AQIM was reported as saying that 'its members managed to kidnap engineer Michel Germaneau in the north of Niger on the 22nd of the previous month.' The group asked France, and those whom it called its allies in the region, to release its jailed members.

According to Niger security sources, the abduction was well planned, suggesting that Abdoulkrim had advance knowledge of his vic­tims' travel plans. Abdoulkrim is reported to have taken the two hostages back into Mali, with Abedine Ouaghe being dropped off in the desert and left to find his way to Tin Zaouatene.

He returned home after two days of alleged debriefing by the Algerian authorities but was then extradited to Niger, where he was wanted in connection with the abduction. He is cur­rently reported to be in detention in Niamey.

An article written in El Watan by the pseudony­mous Selima Tlemçani, who works closely with the Département du Renseignement et de la sécurité (DRS), confirmed that Abdoulkrim and his group were seen passing Boughessa, head­ing in the direction of Inhallil and the Tigharghar Mountains.

For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

First oil flow into FPSO Ruby II vessel

A ceremony to mark first oil flow through Vietnam’s underground pipeline into floating storage vessel FPSO Ruby II was held in Vung Tau City on Thurday, 15th July. The ceremony marked the official launch of operations for oil exploitation of the FPSO Ruby II.

The event was held by Petroleum Technical Service Corporation (PTSC) and Malaysia International Shipping Corporation (MISC). The vessel will be leased by Petronas Carigali Vietnam Limited (PCVL) for crude oil from the Hong Ngoc oil field. It is estimated that FPSO Ruby II will generate around US$165,000 per day.

FPSO is owned and operated by Vietnam Offshore Floating Terminals (VOFT), a joint venture company between PetroVietnam Technical Services Corporation (PTSC) and partner MISC Malaysia, with a 60 per cent share belonging to PTSC.

Source: Saigon Daily

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

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Power struggle between Egyptian conservatives and reformists continues

The Islamists continue to debate the merits of participating in the upcoming People's Assembly elections, with it representing a continuation of the power struggle between the conservatives and reformists.

The reformists want to continue with the movement's political engagement process, despite the prospect of losing much political weight in the next elections. The conservatives, however, see no value in participation as the National Democratic Party (NDP) senior figures have made it clear that the Islamists will not be allowed political space to campaign.

A most likely scenario is the movement's participation but with limited candidates standing; something that would possibly satisfy both camps within the movement.

Many analysts are predicting a crunch time for the movement after the elections at the end of the year, as the outcome is likely to determine the future direction of the group and its role in Egyptian politics.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Lockerbie bomber major source of irritation for Britain and US

The question of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, has again surfaced as a major source of irritation between the Americans and the British. In brief, al-Megrahi has lived almost a year since his original August 2009 liberation from jail in Scotland, when the prognosis was that he would die in the immediate future – i.e. within three months.

In early July 2010, a group of US senators demanded that there should be an investigation into whether al-Megrahi was rightfully released, given the awful death toll of 270 on PanAm flight 103 in 1988. The senators are eager to have al-Megrahi retained under prison conditions rather than enjoy the fruits of his association with the regime in a mansion in Tripoli.

This division of opinion will not help Libya, as continuing discontent in the US on this issue will prolong the period of antagonism between Tripoli and Washington.

The security situation is reported by diplomatic sources in Libya to be well under control. The scale of the arms acquisitions from Russia and parts of the former eastern bloc indicate that the mobile, armoured forces are being reinforced with equipment designed more for control of domestic circumstances rather than to counter the threat of foreign invasion.

It must be assumed that armaments at the disposal of the Security Brigades will remain at a higher standard than the renovated tanks and associated weaponry currently being imported. There are no challenges from abroad where the opposition is quiet and, as long as Colonel Qadhafi remains active, the domestic scene will also be under rigid control.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Total acquires share of Block 1 in the Joint Development Zone

Total has bought Chevron’s 45.9 per cent share in Block 1 in the Joint Development Zone (JDZ), Nigeria. Total will operate the block collaboratively with a number of international oil producers including Sinopec's subsidiary Addax, Dangote Energy Equity Resources and Sasol Exploration and Production Nigeria.

The acquisition is in line with Total’s plans to expand its operations in Africa, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea. At present Total’s operations in Africa produce around 750,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day accounting for 33 per cent of Total’s overall production.

The JDZ is regulated by a treaty signed by Nigeria and Sao Tomé and Principe in 2001 for a period of 45 years. The license granted to Total extends over an area of approximately 700 m2 in water depths ranging from 1,600 to 1,800m. Within this license, a discovery was made in 2006 (Obo-1 well). The proximity of the Total-operated licenses and facilities in Nigeria will enable cost reductions in developing the license’s resources.

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

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

New task force to fight illegal mining activity in Ghana

Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Alhaji Collins Dauda has announced stricter measures against illegal mining activity following the recent mine disaster in Dunkwa-on-Offin, Central Region. Such activity, he said, not only led to loss of life but also to the destruction of land and water pollution.

Among the new measures is a task force of police and military personnel, which will patrol the country in search of illegal mining operations. The new task force began its work this week in the Ahafo Ano North District of the Ashanti Region, and the Krokosoa Forest Reserve in the Western Region.

Chief Justice Georgina Wood swore 16 new High Court judges - 13 men and three women - into office at a ceremony in Accra on 7th July. Eleven of the new judges came from the country's Circuit Courts while five of them were called from the Bar. The Chief Justice urged them to preserve their integrity, and to do everything in their power to protect the national interest.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

Iran to resume energy co-operation with Russia

Iran is to resume energy co-operation with Russia, despite the fact that Moscow backed UN sanctions against Iran earlier this year. Speaking about Russia's decision to support the UN, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, cited Iran's disregard of Western fears over its nuclear programme as the reasons for Russia's change of allegiance.

Russian and Iranian energy ministers have signed a "road map" outlining forthcoming business plans including the possibility of a mutually funded bank to subsidise bilateral projects, and expand co-operation scope.

Talking about the UN sanctions, Iranian oil minister, Masoud Mirkazemi, said that Iran has not felt any impact on its energy industry, and that the only impact of the sanctions was that felt by international oil producers who had worked, or intended to do so, in the Islamic republic. Several Russian oil giants including Gazprom, Gazprom Neft and LUKOIL have put their operations in Iran on hold due to the sanctions, but are expected to resume work once plans are finalised, in the fourth quarter of 2010.

"We have not discussed trading operations, but if there is commercial interest and attractive terms Russian companies are ready to supply oil products to Iran without any doubt. We are neighbours and if a big project to create a south-north transport corridor is implemented I believe that we will create long-term supply opportunities, including for oil products," said Russia's energy minister, Sergei Shmatko.

Source: Reuters

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

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Construction in Africa boosts export trade

Brazil's Foreign Trade secretary, of the Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, Welber Barral, has said that the country's export trade is being boosted by the ongoing construction and development works in Africa. Brazilian construction companies, working in the region, are being shipped machinery, equipment, vehicles industrial goods.

“Services exports boost sales of products such as machinery and construction material,” said Barral.

According to official Ministry reports, export revenues from Brazil to Africa are down to 8.7 per cent, totalling at US$ 3.8 billion. Talking about the country's export trade, Barral said that the decline in numbers was due to reduced sales of industrialised products, such as heavy machinery. He also pointed out that there was significant growth in exports of agricultural commodities such as sugar and meat.

"Commodity exports to Africa have grown a lot, so naturally the purchasing power has gone up and [the continent] started buying more,” said the vice president of the Brazilian Foreign Trade Association (AEB), José Augusto de Castro.

Castro also said that the region was comparatively under-industrialised and, similarly to Barral, claimed that the ongoing construction work there, undertaken by a number of Brazilian companies including Odebrecht, Queiroz Galvão and Camargo Corrêa, was responsible for driving up export trade.

Source: Brazil-Arab News Agency

For more news and expert analysis about Brazil, pleases see Brazil Focus.

Vice president Mahama says Ghana is to be an oil economy nation

Ghana's vice president, Dramani Mahama, has said that the country is taking important measures in preparation for becoming an oil economy nation. Ghana's largest oil field, the Jubilee Field, is expected to begin producing oil for export as early as December.

"Schedules for oil production are well ahead, oil has the potential to be very much transformational for our economy," said Mahama, speaking at Chatham House.

The vice president also said that the Ghanaian government has consulted with a number of countries including, the U.K, Norway, Nigeria and Gabon, about the legal and fiscal aspects of oil production. "We have no excuses not to learn from the experience of other nations, the best and worst experiences," he said.

The Ghanaian government is currently working on legislation, a petroleum bill, an oil revenue bill and local content bills, which will ensure that the country's oil industry is run responsibly, and that the country benefits from its oil rich oil reserves.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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