Arabian Business Weekly Update 20 February 2005

Rafik Hariri failed to control the militias who had every motive to kill him. IT is easy to blame Syria for the murder of Rafik Hariri. Israel already has as have many prominent Lebanese. President George W. Bush has all but done so. But blaming Syria is the easy option, and shows a failure to understand the sectarian divide that exists today within Lebanon. Rafik Hariri is rightly credited with rebuilding the Lebanese capital, and turning the war-ravaged Beirut into a blend of fashionable limestone buildings, trendy shops and restaurants. But what he failed to do during his years in office was unite the country's Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Druze and Christians. He also failed to root out the various terror gangs that operate out of the city.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  February 20, 2005

Don’t rush to blame Syria|~||~||~|Rafik Hariri failed to control the militias who had every motive to kill him. IT is easy to blame Syria for the murder of Rafik Hariri. Israel already has as have many prominent Lebanese. President George W. Bush has all but done so. But blaming Syria is the easy option, and shows a failure to understand the sectarian divide that exists today within Lebanon. Rafik Hariri is rightly credited with rebuilding the Lebanese capital, and turning the war-ravaged Beirut into a blend of fashionable limestone buildings, trendy shops and restaurants. But what he failed to do during his years in office was unite the country's Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Druze and Christians. He also failed to root out the various terror gangs that operate out of the city. His determination to send home the 17,000 Syrian troops in Lebanon was, as it turned out last Monday, fatally flawed. While publicly backing the UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for a Syrian withdrawal by May 2005, his own President Emile Lahoud was Damascus's biggest fan. Hariri did the honourable thing and resigned. In opposition, no matter how many powerful contacts Hariri had in the West, his voice was always going to be weakened. Which is why the Syrians would have even less motive to see him dead. More likely, his killers will have come from one of the many militias he failed to control while in power. None of this, of course, is likely to deter the US from blaming Syria. It may yet send special forces into Syria, officially to hunt down Iraqi insurgents. Ever since he came to the White House, President Bush has long been looking for a reason to take on Syria. The death of Hariri should not be one of them. ||**||Time to act on growth|~||~||~|The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) has been busy drafting a regulatory framework for companies operating in the city. It is all part of the DCCI's attempt to make Dubai one of the world's financial capitals, in conjunction with the efforts of the Dubai Financial Services Authority. But the DCCI says it could be 20 years before the regulations are fully implemented. That is 20 years too long. This week, the German Federal Statistics Office said Europe’s largest economy shrank 0.2% in the last three months of 2004 after a flat third quarter. Italy’s GDP also dipped into the red, falling 0.3%, far worse than expected and leaving 2004 growth at 1.1%. Growth across the Eurozone is close to crisis. Dubai must speed up financial legislation and take advantage of Europe's slowdown. ||**||Iraq’s financial future|~||~||~|After embracing democracy, Iraq may finally be turning the financial corner. It doesn't look that way right now: unemployment is over 50%, and basic infrastructure is lacking. But in a significant move, Iraq’s central bank has finally been given the go-ahead to open a deposit with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. This is a major development. US President George W. Bush issued an executive order last November granting Iraq the right to open the account. At least the central bank can earn income on its reserves of approximately US$5 billion. This equates to over US$100 million a year. Given the US has wiped out all the country's debt, and other nations may follow suit, there is a chance that within a year, Iraq could make a stunning financial recovery. ||**||

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