Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Walid bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz on Monday, April 30, ruled out investing in sanctions-hit Iraq, but said he would invest in Iran at President Mohammad Khatami's behest. "I have received an invitation from Uday Saddam Hussein, elder son of the Iraqi president, to visit Iraq and invest there but I rejected the proposal," Prince Walid told a press conference in Riyadh.
The prince said he had received "a similar invitation from Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, to which I will respond favourably." Relations between the Saudi kingdom and non-Arab Iran began deteriorating after the 1979 revolution which brought the Islamic clergy to power in Tehran, but have vastly improved since Khatami took power in 1997.
The two countries on April 17 signed a security pact to fight drug trafficking and terrorism after two years of negotiations, predicting it would enhance regional security as well as their growing relations. The prince stressed that he "had no investments in Israel ... conforming to the policy of Saudi Arabia," which does not have diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
Riyadh has also not had diplomatic relations with Baghdad since Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which led to the 1991 Gulf War, but some private Saudi companies export goods to Iraq under the UN oil-for-food program. The program, launched in 1996, authorizes Iraq to sell a limited amount of oil abroad in exchange for food and other essentials such as medicine.
Walid, 43, a nephew of King Fahd, runs the Kingdom Holding group with worldwide investments and said Monday he has amassed a personal fortune of $20.3 billion. The prince, ranked as the world's fifth wealthiest entrepreneur by the US magazine Forbes, built his global financial empire by investing in major companies experiencing hard times. —(AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)