IRANIAN PRESIDENT BLAMES OIL PRICE FALL ON POLITICAL CONSPIRACY

DUBAI, Dec. 11- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has accused unnamed countries of plotting to bring down crude prices and said the recent slump in oil prices was not based solely on economic factors.

With oil prices down more than 40 percent since June, Rouhani’s administration has been scrambling for alternative sources of income. Iran’s 2014 budget is based on oil at around $100 a barrel, while Brent crude is currently below $66 per barrel.

“The fall of the oil prices is not just something ordinary and economical, this is not due to only global recession,” Rouhani told a Cabinet session Wednesday.

“The main reason for it is [a] political conspiracy by certain countries against the interest of the region and the Islamic world and it is only in the interest of some other countries,” he added.

Some Saudi officials have in recent months told private briefings that the kingdom was prepared to withstand depressed oil prices, possibly as low as $70 per barrel, for a prolonged period.

Such messages have sparked conspiracy theories, ranging from the Saudis seeking to curtail the United States oil boom, which needs high prices to remain profitable, to Riyadh looking to undermine Iran and Russia due to their support of Saudi’s arch-enemy, Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Iran has in the past accused fellow Muslim countries in the region of plotting with the West to bring down oil prices as a tactic to undermine its sanctions-hit economy.

While Islamic hard-liners in Iran have been quick to blame Saudi Arabia for the price falls, Rouhani and his moderate government have been careful not to antagonize the kingdom, a fellow OPEC member and regional rival, in the interest of better future ties.
–NNN-DAILYSTAR.LB
EGYPT NEEDS LEGAL REFORMS FOR SUEZ HUB TO WORK
CAIRO, Dec. 11 (NNN-DAILYSTAR.LB) — The consultant on a project to develop the Suez Canal says cumbersome Egyptian government bureaucracy could hamper its chances of success.

Yehia Zaki, director of Egypt operations at global engineering firm Dar Al-Handasah, said he had urged the government to introduce bureaucratic and legal reforms.

The Suez project, announced by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in August, aims to turn the canal area into an international industrial and logistics hub. In a separate scheme, the army began digging a second canal in August to allow two-way traffic of larger ships.

“If there is a chance there, you need to provide the proper enabling environment for it. You cannot have it with the current bureaucracy or the legislation or with very poor infrastructure connections,” Zaki said.

The Suez Canal brings in around $5 billion of revenues per year, a vital source of hard currency for Egypt.

A vast network of ministries, agencies and authorities has stifled business in Egypt for decades. Sisi launched an economic reform drive last summer with new taxes and cuts to costly energy subsidies.

SOURCE: DAILYSTAR.LB