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Protests Intensify Across Middle East

CNBC Asia Pacific
Thursday, 17 Feb 2011 | 5:44 PM ET

This is a transcript of top stories presented by China's CCTV Business Channel as produced by CNBC Asia Pacific.

Hello, I'm Saijal Patel and you're watching "Asia Market Daily".

The situation in the Middle East is deteriorating - with protests turning deadly in Bahrain. Dozens of people have been injured, as security forces cleared protestors, who were camped out in Pearl Square, in the country's capital. Thousands of people had been protesting in the Square since Tuesday - calling for political reform. As NBC's Richard Engel reports, demonstrations across the region are intensifying.

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The shock waves from Egypt are still spreading. Today Libya saw the worst of it. In Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, protestors were furious Tuesday night at the arrest of a human rights activist. A video then appeared online today, claiming to show gunfire in the city this morning. It's difficult to tell who's firing and where.

The Libyan unrest, like in Egypt is organized online with videos like this one, showing Muammar Gaddafi with ousted leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. Gaddafi in power for 41 years was once considered the United States' main enemy in Middle East. In a potentially dangerous concession to protesters today, Libya released 110 Islamic militants from prison, including the brother of one of Al Qaeda's top commanders. We spoke to the brother by telephone. He told us the Libyan militants are not a threat to the west.

Protesters are calling for a day of rage in Libya on Thursday.

In Iran there were clashes today at a funeral for a protester killed Monday. The government is taking a hard-line to stop the protest, calling for the execution of opposition leaders.

NBC's Ali Arouzi is in Tehran.

Ali Arouzi, NBC:
"Richard, opposition leaders went online today to say they are unafraid and to thank protestors for turning out on Monday. Later today, the internet in Iran was slowed almost to a halt."

And at night, the sound of defiance has returned.

Cries of god is greater, shouted from Tehran's rooftops. The hallmark of a similar uprising in 2009.

In Yemen, a country where the United States would likely prefer reform to regime collapse, protests continued for a sixth day. A police truck drove through crowds to disperse them. The United States supports the Yemeni government, without it, Al Qaeda could have an even bigger sanctuary in Yemen.

Protests are also spreading in Bahrain, a tiny but crucial US ally.

(SOT) Protester:
"I'm here to be with my brothers and sisters, we want democracy we want a free country."

Trouble in Bahrain could further destabilize the region and US interests. Bahrain is base of the navy's 5th fleet and has a sectarian divide. The royal family is Sunni, 70 percent of the people and nearly all of the protestors are Shiite. The same explosive mix as in Iraq.

Protests spreading there too. Iraq was supposed to be model for democratic success in the region, but Iraqis complain about corruption and the lack of services and security. Major demonstrations are planned against Iraqi government next week.

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The unrest has led to a surge in commodity prices. A flight from risk is pushing gold and silver prices higher. While crude oil has soared, on the back of comments from Israel's foreign minister, that two Iranian warships are preparing to cross Egypt's Suez Canal.

(SOT) Greg Smith, Executive Director, Global Commodities Ltd:
"I think the premium is going to increase and on top of that you've got weather related events that can interrupt supply, and on top of that, you've got increasing consumption in China."

"While you've got this contagion in the Mid-East. You've got workers who've got to pump the oil out, and whether they're going to turn up to work, or have a strike there, or indeed if you have the, any of the canals blocked, you will see $20 or $30 price move. That's not unrealistic at these levels."

Elsewhere, India and Japan have signed an economic partnership deal, aimed at boosting trade, and increasing investment between the two nations. CNBC's Kaori Enjoji caught up with India's Commerce and Industry Minister, after he signed the pact in Tokyo.

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Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce and Industry for India:
It will be mutually rewarding for both the countries. It's not only for the Indian economy, it also provides greater opportunity to the Japanese investors, industry, since it embraces all trade. That's merchandised trade, services, and investments. It will help in creating new pathways of cooperation and the strategic and global partnership that India and Japan have as two major economies, not only of Asia but of the world, will surely have a defining influence in this decade and in the 21st century.

Kaori Enjoji, CNBC:
The Japanese Auto industry is banking on huge potential in the Indian market. At what pace can we expect car tariffs to come down?

Sharma:
I think this agreement addresses that issue. It covers 90 percent of the tariffs in Japan and 85 percent of India, and the tariffs will come down immediately in some cases, in some of the lines, and tariffs and duties will be gradually reduced over the years.

Enjoji:
Talking to many Japanese CEOs, the say they're a little bit reluctant to invest more in India because of the infrastructure. What are you doing to address some of those concerns?

Sharma:
Presently India is spending $550 billion in 5 years on its infrastructure, and in the next 5 years, we are going to spend 1 trillion on infrastructure. This is only one area, there are other sectors which are open for investment. And it's not only inward investments, it's also partnerships and collaborations not restricted merely to the funds coming in but also developing new technologies, innovation and institutional linkages, because we have to recognize that India today is one of the most favored destinations for foreign investors. And the coming decades we'll see India's infrastructure being built to remove the present bottlenecks and constraints, and also other sectors which will continue to grow which will include agriculture, the services sector, IT, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, India has its competitive strengths which are globally economies. So a partnership is a 2-way process. It's not that we are looking at gains or Japan is looking at gains, we will benefit from each other. We are the second fastest growing economy in the world today, and in the next 2 years, the economies, GDP of Asia, EU and America will be equal sized.

Enjoji:
Do you sense engaging a heightened level of interested engage India, both diplomatically and at the private sector level because of the emergence of China?

Sharma:
I think the world is big enough to accommodate all of us.

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That wraps up the latest "Asia Market Daily".

I'm Saijal Patel from CNBC.

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