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Mediterranean news in brief

More tourists visiting Algeria

The number of foreign tourists who visited Algeria rose significantly in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2003, Tourism Minister Mohammed Seguir Karam has told a Senate committee.

More than 222,000 tourists traveled to Algeria in the first three months of 2004, representing an increase of nearly 12 percent over last year.

Many of the visitors to the north African country were expatriate Algerians, but 74,000 were foreigners - the largest number to visit Algeria since 1991, the year before civil war broke out.

Last year, 1.166 million tourists visited Algeria, a 15 percent rise over the 966,000 visitors in 2002.

Increased tourist numbers mean more foreign currency coming into the country.

In 2001, tourism brought some $95.5 million into Algeria, and last year $160 million, said Karam.

The is aim to attract 3 million tourists - two-thirds expatriate Algerians and one-third foreigners - to Algeria over the next 10 years, and to develop the tourism industry to match the rise.

If those numbers are achieved, Algeria will need 120,000 more hotel beds and 230,000 more tourism sector workers, said Karam.

Algeria's unemployment rate officially stands at some 25 percent, and the country depends on exports of oil and gas for the bulk of its foreign currency earnings.

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Arab Fund loans $118.6m to Morocco

The Kuwait-based Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD) said Tuesday it had signed a development loan with Morocco worth 35 million dinars ($118.6 million).

The loan will help finance a port and a highway in Northern Morocco to enhance social and economic development and tourism on the Mediterranean coast, the fund said in a statement.

The loan is repayable over 22 years at an interest rate of 4.5 percent with a grace period of five years.

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FATF halts formal monitoring of Lebanon

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a supervisory body of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, has reiterated its satisfaction with measures taken by the Lebanese authorities to fight money laundering and recognized the country's sustained efforts to implement its anti-money laundering regime.

The FATF, in its annual review released Wednesday by Saradar Weekly Monitor, said Lebanon has further improved co-ordination between domestic law enforcement agencies, has taken a more intensive approach to domestic anti-money laundering enforcement, while the number and quality of reported suspected cases has increased. As a result, the FATF decided to end formal monitoring of Lebanon in October 2003.

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Breached pipeline in southern Iraq back in business

BASRA, Iraq: A breach in an oil pipeline in southern Iraq has been repaired, allowing petroleum exports to reach their regular level, an Iraqi oil official told AFP.

"We are currently pumping 72,000 barrels per hour," an oil official from the southern port of Basra offshore oil terminal told AFP by telephone.

The oil pipeline had been breached southeast of the Al-Zubayr oil fields causing a fresh fall in exports Saturday. The rupture was blamed on Iraq's atrophied infrastructure and not sabotage.

Exports had fallen to 40,000 barrels per hour from 84,000 barrels per hour after the rupture four days ago.

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Turkish consumer price index below target

ANKARA: Turkish consumer prices decreased 0.13 percent in June from the previous month and increased 8.9 percent over a year, in a new boost for the government's efforts to combat chronic inflation, the state statistics institute said Saturday.

It was the fourth month in a row that the consumer price index dipped below the year-end target of 12 percent, set as part of a tight program of economic recovery watched by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Wholesale prices, meanwhile, decreased by 1.05 percent in June from May, recording an increase of 10.5 percent from May last year, the institute said.

Cutting inflation is a key element of a $16 billion stand-by deal that Turkey signed with the IMF after a severe financial crisis in 2001.

In 2003, the government beat its inflation target of 20 percent, posting a rate of 18.4 percent. Ankara is planning to cut inflation down to single digits in 2005.

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Western Bekaa to take precautions with water

The Energy and Water Ministry urged citizens in the Western Bekaa Thursday to expose water to air for a few moments before consumption, especially after traces of pollution were detected in the Loussy well, which supplies the area.
A ministry statement said the Loussy well will always be exposed to pollution due to technical, hydraulic or environmental reasons, and that the ministry is studying the case with specialists. Authorities have also decided to re-examine the amount of potable water pumped from the Shamsine Spring, which supplies the Loussy well.
The ministry cautioned citizens against extracting water from the well where the percentage of nitrate exceeds international standards.
It asked the Shamsine water authority to take samples from homes to analyze the quality of water on the chemical and bacteriological levels. Further analysis will be run within 10 days.

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Kerosene, diesel costs drop slightly

Energy and Water Minister Ayoub Humayed announced a LL300 decrease Thursday in the price of kerosene, and another by LL200 in the price of diesel.
According to a statement, 20 liters of kerosene will now cost LL11,000, whereas 20 liters of diesel and diesel oil for vehicles will be sold at LL10,900 and LL11,000, respectively.
As for the prices of 98, 95 and 92 octane unleaded gasoline, they remained unchanged at LL22,500, LL21,600 and LL21,200 respectively.
Also unchanged in price are 1 kiloliter of fuel oil containing 1 percent of sulfur at $224, 1 kiloliter of fuel oil for industries at $185, and a 10-kilogram bottle of butane at LL11,600.

Beirut,07 12 2004
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