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 China's Wen holds talks in Saudi

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PostSubject: China's Wen holds talks in Saudi    Sun Jan 15, 2012 12:53 pm

Jan 15, 2012 10:17 EST

China's Wen holds talks in Saudi

The Chinese leader met late Saturday with Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, who is Saudi's interior minister, the official SPA news agency reported.

It added that the talks, also attended by Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, focused on "bilateral relations and regional and international affairs."

Saudi Arabia is the largest supplier of oil to energy-hungry China and bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to $58.5 billion in the first 11 months of 2011, according to Xinhua Chinese news agency.

On Sunday, Wen held talks with the head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, an OIC statement said.

The Gulf tour will also take Wen to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

His trip comes as the West ups the stakes in its standoff with Iran, threatening to impose sanctions on the oil exports of the Islamic republic, which provides 11 percent of China's oil imports.

Iran is the third largest provider of oil to China. Qatar and the UAE, although both major oil-producing states, do not yet figure among the top 10 oil exporters to Beijing.

The visit comes days after Wen met with US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was in Beijing to drum up support for the new US sanctions that aim to squeeze Iran's crucial oil revenues.

The measures bar any foreign banks that do business with Iran's central bank -- responsible for processing most oil purchases in the Islamic republic -- from US financial markets.

But China opposes the sanctions on Iran, which Washington and other nations accuse of developing nuclear weapons -- a claim denied by Tehran.

Japan's Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba was in the Gulf last week also on a tour aimed to secure oil supplies in case of a shortage resulting from sanctions on Iran's oil exports.

Iran has starkly warned Gulf states not to make up for any shortfall in its oil exports under the new US and EU sanctions.

If Arab neighbours compensate for a looming EU ban on Iranian imports, "we would not consider these actions to be friendly," Iran's representative to OPEC, Mohammad Ali Khatibi, was quoted as saying by the Sharq newspaper on Sunday.


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PostSubject: Re: China's Wen holds talks in Saudi    Sun Jan 15, 2012 12:56 pm

Jan 15, 2012 11:42 EST

Sudan opens oil blocks to bids amid S. Sudan dispute

International oil companies gathered on Sunday to study six exploration blocks that Sudan opened for bidding ahead of talks aimed at resolving a long-running oil fee dispute with South Sudan.

More than 150 foreign and local industry representatives as well as government officials met at a Khartoum hotel to begin a process expected to conclude in May when bid winners are announced.

"We are offering six blocks with very good potential," Petroleum Minister Awad Ahmed Aljaz told the gathering, where potential bidders received an introductory briefing on each of the blocks, and on Sudan's oil industry.

But there was no mention that the country lost 75 percent of its oil production when South Sudan separated in July following an overwhelming vote after decades of civil war.

The vast majority of Khartoum's export earnings came from petroleum, leaving the government now scrambling for ways to bolster its finances.

"We welcome all companies from all nationalities without any strings attached," Aljaz said.

The briefing came two days before the latest scheduled talks between Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, aimed at resolving a fierce dispute over oil compensation fees.

Although most of Sudan's oil is produced in the south, for now it can only be exported via the north, and the two countries disagree over how much Juba should pay for using the north's pipeline and export infrastructure.

Sudan's current production is 115,000 barrels a day but plans are now going "full speed" to boost that by 65,000 barrels daily by year's end, said Azhari Abdalla, director general of the government's Oil Exploration and Production Authority.

Energy-hungry China is the largest foreign investor in Sudan's oil sector, and the biggest buyer of Sudanese crude.

Sudan is offering Blocks 14 and 18 bordering Egypt; Block 12B in the conflict-plagued Darfur region; Block 15, onshore and offshore along the Red Sea; and Blocks 8 and 10, south of Khartoum and in eastern Sudan.

Abdalla said exploration -- which began offshore in the 1950s and onshore two decades later -- has proven the country has "active petroleum systems... which are substantially under-explored."

Oil companies agreed the country is worth looking at.

"It's interesting potential," said Gregory Channon, a director of Statesman Resources Ltd, a small firm listed on Canada's TSX Venture Exchange.

"It will take several years to get discoveries out of these areas, I'm sure."

Channon said the fee dispute between Sudan and South Sudan is "a matter of negotiation" between the two sides and not relevant to the bidding.

"The blocks that are on offer here are all in the north so I don't believe that's relevant at all," he said.

A representative of an Asian-based oil firm, who declined to be identified, agreed Sudan "has quite (the) potential."

In November Sudanese officials announced the country will take 23 percent of the south's vital oil exports as payment in kind during the fee dispute.

The south said on Saturday that diversion of southern oil would be "blatant theft."

Khartoum wants its neighbour to pay a total of $36 a barrel including a "transit fee" and charges for using the marine terminal, transportation and processing.

At a Sunday news conference officials said they want $7 billion in compensation, but South Sudan has offered only $5 billion.

Sabir Mohamed Hassan, Khartoum's chief negotiator on economic issues, did not say directly how much oil Sudan has confiscated.

But he said Khartoum is applying the $36 rate to the volume exported by South Sudan, which is then divided by the global oil price "to get the number of barrels we take."

He did not say what Khartoum is doing with the seized oil.


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