Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Trade and Finance

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Trade and Finance

Article excerpt

Arab Aid Drops Sharply

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that official development assistance by Arab countries fell to its lowest level ever in 1988. Estimated Arab aid fell to $2.4 billion, 27 percent less than in 1987. Saudi Arabia continued to be the major contributor of Arab aid, accounting for 90 percent of the 1988 total. Kuwait, which formerly was a major donor, reduced its aid to only $108 million in 1988.

Arab disbursements have fallen throughout the 1980s and now stand at less than half their 1980 level of $8.7 billion. The OECD report states that the decline is primarily due to the ending of large payments to Jordan and Syria under the 1978 Baghdad Agreement, which provided for $3.5 billion annually for ten years to Syria, Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Net disbursements from national Arab aid agencies also dropped sharply in 1988, as did disbursements by multilateral Arab and OPEC funds, although not to the same degree as the national organizations.

Iran Pushing for Closer Trade Links with Oman

Iran is moving to further cement its traditionally close trading relations with Oman. Muscat was one of the few Arab capitals to have maintained normal relations with Tehran during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. An Iranian-Omani economic cooperation commission was established in March 1989. Talks during subsequent commission meetings have focused on cooperation in trade, industry, technology and transportation.

The Iranian ambassador to Muscat, Mohammad al-Arab, and Salim Ibn Abdallah al-Ghazali, the Omani Minister of Commerce and Industry, concluded a two-day meeting last December by announcing that trade and economic relations would be significantly increased in 1990.

Iran is using its warm relations with Oman as a means eventually to enjoy closer economic and trade relations with the five other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. One of the main topics discussed at the GCC's tenth summit, held last year in Muscat, was ways to promote closer trade relations with Iran. While Saudi Arabia still has declined to resume diplomatic ties with Iran, several other states, notably the United Arab Emirates and Oman, are anxious to increase commercial activities with Tehran. Early last year, Ali Maji Khamoushim, president of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, announced that Iran wanted to set up a joint chamber of commerce with the GCC, to be based in Dubai. …

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