Saudi calls to halt decline in trade with Iran
Saudi Arabia called Tuesday for measures to halt the decline in trade with Iran over the past four years, at the opening of a meeting in the Saudi capital on their joint economic commission. Commerce Ministers Osama Jaafar Faqih of Saudi Arabia and Iran's Mohammad Shariatmadari are co-chairing the meeting which is due to run until Thursday.
The Saudi host, in an opening speech, regretted "the fall in the volume of trade between the two countries" over the past four years despite the improvement in Riyadh-Tehran relations. Two-way trade plunged 30 percent in 1999 to 355 million riyals ($95 million), compared with the previous year, and was down by 51 percent last year from the level of 1997, said Faqih.
He called for "a serious examination of the causes of this fall" and for "an expansion on the basis of joint projects." An Iranian industrial fair will be held in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah in February and a Saudi exhibition will be in Tehran next May on services for the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, said the commerce minister.
Shariatmadari said Iran aimed "to consolidate its cooperation with Islamic countries" including Saudi Arabia. Muslim countries account for more than 66 percent of Iran's non-oil exports, he said. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who visited Saudi Arabia in May 1999, has worked to improve Tehran's relations with Riyadh since his 1997 election.
The two Gulf nations severed ties for four years after more than 400 people were killed in 1987 clashes between Saudi security forces and Iranian pilgrims in Mecca demonstrating against Israel and the United States. — (AFP, Riyadh)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)