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Business Middle East

  • GENEVA, Oct 2- The United Nations human rights office called on Tuesday for the immediate release of prominent activists and journalists it said had been arrested or intimidated as part of an apparent clampdown on critical voices ahead of next year's presidential election.

  • BAGHDAD-- Iraq on Tuesday signed a $14 million deal with a U.S. consortium to modernize a major port in the country's southern province of Basra in a move aimed at developing key infrastructure neglected during years of war and sanctions.

  • DUBAI, Oct 2- Iran has been able to cope with Western economic sanctions and the central bank has supplied enough hard currency to finance imports even though the sanctions have cut Tehran's oil earnings, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday.

  • COLUMBUS, Ohio-- Shares of Express declined 17 percent in premarket trading Tuesday after the clothing retailer cut its forecast for the current quarter because of fewer shoppers in September and heavy discounting.

  • TEHRAN, Iran-- Iranian lawmakers have signed a petition to summon President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to parliament for questioning over the rapid drop in the value of the country's currency. Iran's currency fell again Tuesday, hitting a record low of 34,500 rials against the U.S. dollar. It was 29,500 rials to the dollar Sunday.

  • CHICAGO-- Mandolin player and composer Chris Thile learned the hard way that when you get a call from the 312 area code this time of year, you should probably answer the phone. Thile is among 23 recipients of this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius grants," which are given in a secrecy-shrouded process.

  • DUBAI, Oct 2- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday that Iran's central bank had provided enough hard currency to finance imports into the country, despite Western economic sanctions designed to cut its oil earnings.

  • WASHINGTON-- Federal investigators estimated Monday that the Department of Veterans Affairs wastefully spent about $762,000 at two employee conferences last year in Orlando, Fla., and that senior leadership failed to provide proper oversight in planning and executing the events.

  • DOHA/ LONDON, Oct 2- Qatar Airways will not take delivery of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner until an engine defect is modified, its chief executive said on Tuesday. Qatar has placed orders for 60 Dreamliners- 30 firm and an option for 30 more- and selected General Electric Co.' s new-generation GEnx engine for the aircraft.

  • LONDON, Oct 2- Banks are offering up to 500 million euros of debt to bidders in private equity firm CVC's sale of Danish store group Matas, as retail deals continue to dominate the European leveraged buyout market this year.

  • By Christopher Johnson and Alice Baghdjian. LONDON, Oct 2- Brent crude oil slipped to around $112 a barrel on Tuesday as investors weighed a weaker outlook for fuel demand and sluggish economic growth against the risk of possible supply disruptions.

  • BAGHDAD, Oct 2- Iraq's Finance Ministry has begun paying an initial $650 million to Iraqi Kurdistan for oil companies working in the autonomous region, Deputy Prime Minister Rosh Nuri al-Shawish told Reuters on Tuesday.

  • SINGAPORE, Oct 2- Asia's fuel oil market continued to weaken on Tuesday, with the prompt inter-month spread easing to a six-week low on lacklustre demand at a time when more supply is emerging. The balance October/November inter-month spread eased 50 cents to a backwardation of $2.38 a tonne, lowest since Aug. 21, according to Reuters data.

  • JERUSALEM-- Israel's prime minister held the prospect of early elections over the heads of his coalition partners Tuesday, opening a drive to get his budget approved, a campaign that could have foreign policy implications.

  • DUBAI, Oct 2- Qatar Islamic Bank, the Gulf state's largest sharia-compliant lender, is planning to issue a five-year benchmark-sized Islamic bond, or sukuk, this week, arranging banks said on Tuesday. Benchmark-sized is understood to be at least $500 million. HSBC, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank.

  • SINGAPORE, Oct 2- The Asian naphtha price extended losses on Tuesday to reach a three-session low of $966 while margins snapped four sessions of gains and fell to $124.95 a tonne as squeezed petrochemical margins overshadowed the firm gasoline prices in the West.

  • DOHA, Oct 2- Qatar Airways backs the proposed $45 billion merger of EADS and BAE Systems, the Gulf carrier's chief executive said on Tuesday, arguing a combined entity would make better products. Airbus parent EADS and BAE Systems are battling to save their tie-up, which would create a European aerospace and defence giant, amid competing government interests.

  • Another top executive at the JPMorgan unit that lost $5.8 billion on derivatives trades this year is leaving the company. The real estate investment manager named Jeroen Verheijden as a senior vice-president to spearhead the company's client business in the UK, the euro zone and the Middle East.

  • BAGHDAD, Oct 2- Iraq's Finance Ministry has begun making an initial payment of $650 million to Iraqi Kurdistan for oil companies working in the autonomous region, Deputy Prime Minister Rosh Nuri al-Shawish told Reuters on Tuesday.

  • STOCKHOLM, Oct 2- Syria's civil war has made Friday afternoons a busy time at Bambuser, a tiny Swedish IT startup in an old bicycle factory which streams live video from the latest uprisings.