Morning briefing: 9 Oct 2012

Lebanese union confirm strike and other stories


The Lebanese Public Sector Employees Association has confirmed it will participate in a strike and demonstrations scheduled for Wednesday.

“The Cabinet should drop its policy of procrastination and forward the [bolstered public sector] salary scale [draft law] to Parliament immediately,” it said in a statement.

It added that the draft law represents a compromise “that we accepted despite flaws and injustices.” The statement reiterated that the new salary scale was vital to reform Lebanon’s ailing public sector and raise its productivity.

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The World Bank's financial arm International Finance Corp (IFC) plans to increase its investments in Yemen, Iraq and North Africa next year to help support development and job creation, a senior IFC executive said.

"MENA needs to create 50-70 million jobs in the next decade. Recent events in the MENA region have created the urgency to address the fundamental conditions required to revive growth and support human development," Dimitris Tsitsiragos, the IFC's vice president for Europe, Middle East and North Africa, said in an interview on Monday.

The IFC, which invests in developing the private sector in emerging economies with a special focus on small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), sees opportunities in infrastructure, energy, education and healthcare in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

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Kuwaiti telecoms operator Viva, part-owned by Saudi Telecom Co (STC), has approached banks for a $400 million loan aimed at expanding its existing capabilities, two banking sources familiar with the matter said.

Viva, which launched services in 2008 and is also known as Kuwait Telecom Company, is yet to mandate any banks for the syndicated loan facility but has approached several lenders to gauge interest, one banking source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They (Viva) have shown considerable progress since inception which is admirable for a regional telecoms player. Banks who commit the maximum balance sheet are most likely to be called in,” the source said.

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Bahrain's government has agreed in principle to supply additional funds to ailing national carrier Gulf Air so it can pay off debts.

A joint meeting between the government and the National Assembly reviewed the financial and administrative situation of the airline and agreed to continue to support it.

According to Bahrain News Agency, the meeting discussed "available alternatives to stop continuous losses incurred by the company".

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Gulf Arab countries should work together to stop Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood plotting to undermine governments in the region, the United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister said on Monday.

The UAE, a major oil exporter and business hub, has arrested around 60 local Islamists this year, accusing them of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood – which is banned in the country – and conspiring to overthrow the government.

Thanks to cradle-to-grave welfare systems, the UAE and other Gulf Arab monarchies have largely avoided Arab Spring unrest that has unseated rulers elsewhere.

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Egypt's President, Mohammed Morsi, has pardoned all those arrested since the beginning of last year's popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

A post on the president's official Facebook page announced an amnesty for crimes and misdemeanours committed "in support of the revolution".

The decree could lead to the release of several thousand people.

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has called for a "change of course" in the Middle East, criticising US President Obama on foreign policy.

Speaking in Virginia, he lambasted the White House over an attack in Libya that killed the US ambassador.

He said he would put Iran "on notice" over its nuclear plans, and called for arms to go to Syrian rebels.

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