The European Union is poised to ban imports of Iranian gas into Europe as part of its efforts to ratchet up pressure on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear programme, diplomats have said.
Diplomats from EU member states have started preparing a package of sanctions against Iran with a goal of formally adopting them at a meeting of foreign ministers on Oct. 15 in Luxembourg.
"There is agreement on gas," one of the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The big states back it, Germany, Britain, France," another one said.
A leading Lebanese banker has said he expects the profits of the banking sector to plunge as much as 25 percent at the end of the year in light of the severe economic slowdown, political stalemate and volatile situation in the Middle East.
“I am afraid that the profits of the local banks will fall by 25 percent at the end of the year. The results of the first six months of this year were not too encouraging as well,” chairman of Byblos Bank Francois Bassil told The Daily Star.
Most of the Lebanese banks have either reported a drop in profits or nearly flat results in the first six months of 2012 amid concern that the days of hefty profits are long gone.
However elsewhere in the Middle East a new study showed that a large majority of bank CEOs are cautiously optimistic on growth for 2013.
The report released by HR consultancy Stormbridge International found that there are positive signs ahead but CEOs remain cautious about growth.
The study examined growth and performance metrics in 2012 as well as quantifying the overall confidence and sentiment for 2013 across the GCC and wider Middle East, including countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Turkey.
Facebook has announced that one billion people around the world are now using the social media platform at least once a month.
Since its launch, 1.13 trillion likes and 140.3 billion friend connections have been generated, with 219 billion photos shared since the launch of this application in 2005, Facebook said in a statement.
The US media giant also revealed that 17 billion check-ins were made, which included location-tagged posts.
Iranian riot police were out in force in Tehran’s main squares on Thursday as a number of bazaaris and other merchants kept their shops shut in protest over the falling value of the rial, despite threats they may face prosecution for doing so.
Jewellery and gold shops in Isfahan, Iran’s third city, reportedly joined the shutdown protests and refused to do any trade, citing a fear of making heavy losses. Houshang Shishehboran, secretary of the Isfahan Gold and Jewellery Union, said the decision to halt business in the central city was taken “in response to price fluctuations”.
Iran's currency has fallen 30 percent during the past week, a decline that has raised questions about Iran’s economic health in the face of ever-tightening international sanctions. Wednesday’s strike by bazaar merchants in the capital – which was accompanied by unexpected protests by currency traders – led to clashes between riot police and demonstrators shouting slogans attacking President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
A Cairo court has sentenced the former chairman of Ezz Steel to jail for seven years on graft charges, the second such sentence handed to the businessman and ex-official in ousted leader Hosni Mubarak's party.
Ahmed Ezz, who was chairman of Mubarak's National Democratic Party and a hate figure for protesters seeking to end his rule, was also fined 19.3 billion Egyptian pounds ($3.2 billion), judge Makram Awad said.
Ezz was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison also on graft charges and fined, along with other former ministers and officials, an amount of 660 million pounds. He is already serving time on that conviction.
Jordan's king has dissolved parliament, paving the way for early polls ahead of protests seen as his biggest challenge since the start of the Arab Spring.
The decree follows Abdullah II's pledge to bring in political reforms aimed at avoiding anti-government unrest.
Jordanians have been pressing for a greater say in how their country is run and demanding corruption be tackled.