Thursday, October 27, 2011

China hopes Yemen restores stability



BEIJING - China calls on relevant parties in Yemen to restore the country's stability at an early date through political dialogue, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said here on Wednesday.

Jiang said China welcomes the signing of the ceasefire.

"China hopes relevant parties will resolve differences through dialogue and consultation and other political means," Jiang said.

The Yemeni government signed a ceasefire with the dissident army and opposition rebels in the capital Sanaa on October 25, the Yemeni Defense Ministry said.

Nexen may make ''orderly exit'' from Yemen if political strife continues (Nexen)

Oct 27, 2011

CALGARY _ Ongoing political strife in Yemen may cause Nexen Inc. to halt its long-running operations in the Middle Eastern country, one of many to be swept by the so-called Arab Spring protests.

Whether the Calgary-based company (TSX:NXY) would be able to meet a year-end deadline to extend a contract with the Yemeni government has been a big question mark for much of the year.

"The political situation is making it difficult to make visible progress on an extension," Kevin Reinhart, Nexen´s chief financial officer, said Thursday.

"While we continue our efforts, we are preparing for an orderly exit if these efforts prove unsuccessful."

Reinhart made his comments on a conference call to discuss the company´s third-quarter financial results that saw net profits cut by nearly two thirds on lower production and falling sales.

The Calgary company reported early Thursday that it earned $200 million or 38 cents a share for the quarter ended Sept. 30.

That was down from $581 million or $1.11 a share a year earlier.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were on average expecting earnings of 31 cents per share.

Company-wide production after royalties ped to 164,000 oil equivalent barrels a day from 180,000. Output was hurt by reduced production from its Buzzard field in the North Sea, planned maintenance and weather-related downtime in the Gulf of Mexico.

Quarterly sales ped to just under $1.4 billion from $1.45 billion.

Nexen also said Thursday that it has received approval from the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change to go ahead with plans to develop the Golden Eagle oil deposit in the North Sea.

The C$3.3-billion investment by Nexen and its partners is expected to produce an estimated 140 million barrels of oil equivalent reserves over an 18-year period.

Nexen is the operator of Golden Eagle and holds a 36.54 per cent working interest in the field in the central North Sea.

The remaining interest is held by Maersk Oil North Sea UK Ltd., with 31.56 per cent, Suncor Energy UK Ltd. (TSX:SU), at 26.69 per cent and Edinburgh Oil and Gas, with (5.21 per cent.

During construction, the Golden Eagle development is expected to more than 2,000 jobs as well as 400 permanent jobs when production begins.

"This is a great day for the U.K. oil and gas industry. Regulatory approval marks a major milestone in the development of Golden Eagle, which is one of the largest oil discoveries in the U.K. North Sea since our Buzzard discovery," said Phil Oldham, managing director of Nexen Petroleum UK Ltd.

In its earnings report, Nexen said the company generated cash flow of $516 million in the third quarter, up from $496 million last year.

"While we have made good progress against several key initiatives so far this year, our production has been below our expectations due to the downtime at Buzzard," said Marvin Romanow, president and CEO of Nexen.

"With the work complete and the fourth platform commissioned, we are now able to produce from our full well set at Buzzard."

The Calgary-based company also operates the Long Lake oilsands project, which has been beset by operational glitches since it started up in late 2008.

At Long Lake, steam is pumped deep underground to soften the thick, tarry bitumen so it can flow to the surface. The project is unique in that uses the dregs of each barrel of crude as a fuel source.

But the project has lagged its design capacity of 72,000 barrels of bitumen per day. In the first quarter, Long Lake was producing only 28,500 barrels per day.

Nexen´s erstwhile Long Lake joint-venture partner, Opti Canada Ltd., filed for court protection from creditors earlier this year. In July, China National Offshore Oil Corp. acquired Opti for $2.1 billion.

Nexen has traced the hiccups back to the project´s inception around a decade ago and is currently working on fixing those mistakes.

It initially planned to develop land closest to the upgrader first in order to save money on pipelines and other infrastructure. Those areas, however, are not in the highest quality part of the reservoir.

Nexen is a major landholder in northeastern B.C.´s natural gas-rich Horn River Basin. It has been actively seeking a partner to help develop those assets, potentially exporting the gas to Asia via the West Coast.

In addition, Nexen has a seven per cent interest in the massive Syncrude Canada Ltd. oilsands mine, offshore operations in the North Sea, Gulf of Mexico and West Africa and oil production in Yemen.

Yemen's government denies recruiting Syrian militiamen

27 October 2011

Eight Syrians killed in a military plane crash in Yemen earlier this week were pilot trainers not militiamen, Yemeni military officials said Thursday dpa reported

The Syrian pilots had been on a training stint in Yemen since 1999 as part of a cooperation pact between the defence ministries in both countries, the state news agency quoted the officials as saying.

The eight Syrians and one Yemeni were killed Monday in the crash at Al-Anad base in the province of Lahij, located around 340 kilometres south-east of the capital Sana'a. Seven others on board the Russian-made plane survived the incident, according to Yemeni authorities.

Yemen's opposition has accused the government of recruiting militiamen from Syria to help quell months-long protests demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster.

Denying the accusation, a Yemeni military source said on Thursday: ?The Yemeni Armed Forces do not need military pilots from other countries as we have already enough qualified pilots.?

Millions of Yemenis have taken to the streets since February demanding an end to Saleh's 33-year rule. At least 1,480 people were killed between February and September, according to government figures.

An American Teenager in Yemen: Paying for the Sins of His Father?

By Tom Finn and Noah Browning / Sana'a Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011

A wave of CIA drone strikes targeting al-Qaeda figures in Yemen is stoking widespread anger here that U.S. policy is cruel and misguided, prioritizing counterterrorism over a genuine solution to the country's raging political crisis.

Politics have never been a concern to Sam al-Homiganyi and his fellow teenagers. This month, though, they were shocked by the sudden death of a friend and are struggling to understand why.

Fighting back tears, his gaze fixed downward, Homiganyi, a lean-looking 15 year-old from the outskirts of Sana'a, told TIME, "He was my best friend; we played football together everyday." Another of his friends spoke up, gesturing to the gloomy group of jean-clad boys around him: "He was the same as us. He liked swimming, playing computer games, watching movies... you know, normal stuff."

The dead friend was Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old born in Denver, Colorado, the third American killed in as many weeks by suspected CIA drone strikes in Yemen. His father, the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, also an American citizen, was killed earlier this month, along with alleged al-Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan, who was from New York. When Abdul Rahman's death was first reported in the western press, his age was given as 21 by local Yemeni officials. Afterwards, however, the Awlaki family put out a copy of Abdulrahman's birth certificate.

According to his relatives, Abdulrahman left the family home in the Sana'a area on Sept. 30 in search of his fugitive father who was hiding out with his tribe, the Awalak, in the remote, rugged southern province of Shabwa. Days after the teenager began his quest, however, his father was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Then, just two weeks later, the Yemeni government claimed another airstrike killed a senior al-Qaeda militant. Abdulrahman, his teenage cousin, and six others died in the attack as well. A U.S. official said the young man "was in the wrong place at the wrong time," and that the U.S. was trying to kill a legitimate terrorist — al-Qaeda leader Ibrahim al-Banna, who also died — in the strike that apparently killed the American teen-ager.

Abdulrahman's distraught grandfather is not buying the explanation. Nasser al-Awlaki, who received a university degree in the U.S., had for years sought an injunction in American courts to prevent the Obama administration from targetting and killing his son, Anwar. He told TIME, "I really feel disappointed that this crime is going to be forgotten. I think the American people ought to know what really happened and how the power of their government is being abused by this administration. Americans should start asking why a boy was targeted for killing." He continued, "In addition to my grandson's killing the missile killed by brother's grandson who was a 17-years old kid, who was not an American citizen but is a human being killed in cold blood. I cannot comprehend how my teenage grandson was killed by a Hellfire missile. How nothing was left of him except small pieces of flesh. Why? Is America safer now that a boy was killed?" As for his son, Abdulrahman's father, Nasser al-Awlaki says that the U.S. "killed my son Anwar without a trial for any crime he committed... They killed him just for his freedom of speech." He levels the charges directly at the U.S. President. "I urge the American people to bring the killers to justice. I urge them to expose the hypocrisy of the 2009 Nobel Prize laureate. To some he may be that. To me and my family he is nothing more than a child killer."

Meanwhile, the U.S. is caught between prosecuting the campaign, which depends in part on intelligence provided by security forces loyal to Yemen's embattled government, and encouraging political change. Inspired by the Arab Spring, Yemen has been convulsed by nine months of anti-government demonstrations which are now verging dangerously on civil war. U.S. diplomats have tried to manage a transition that will see President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down but keep the Yemeni state focused on counter-terrorism. "America's view of our country is wrong, and motivated only by its own cynical interests," says Hassan Luqman, a demonstrator camped out in the indefatigable sit-in colony known as "Change Square" in Yemen's capital. "Its support for the regime is a dishonor to all the youths who have fallen as martyrs struggling against it."

Western diplomats contend that while terrorism figures prominently in their concerns on Yemen, they are refusing to let the recent killing of several prominent al-Qaeda leaders distract them from the task of seeking a constructive political solution. "I'm sure the government hoped recent successes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would diminish pressure on them, but we maintain our line," a Sana'a-based Western diplomat said. "This hasn't changed the course on Yemen's long-term issues."

But the campaign of aerial bombardments in Yemen, accelerated by the Obama administration, has all too often missed its intended targets and killed innocents, aggravating the country's already dire humanitarian and security situation. In December 2009, a U.S. cruise missile crashed into a caravan of tents in the rural South, killing dozens, among them 14 women and 21 children. Despite an uproar by Yemeni rights groups and a detailed investigation by Amnesty International, U.S. officials refused to take responsibility for the bombing.

More disastrously, an American warplane wiped out the deputy governor of the oil-rich Maareb province along with his entire retinue last summer. They had gathered to accept the surrender of a wanted al-Qaeda militant who, finding the appointed site in flames, retraced his steps unscathed. A massive rebellion by the official's tribal kinsmen lingers to this day, and disturbances to the area's oil infrastructure have undercut the country's only lucrative export and severed the supply of electricity and fuel to millions of Yemenis every day.

Yemen's restive southern province of Abyan, has also been a focus of drone attacks, and has been at the center of a ferocious, months-long battle between army units — supplied with essential provisions by the U.S. — and al-Qaeda-linked militants. Refugees from the fighting, angrily recall seeing and hearing drones, and believe the government is deliberately exploiting the chaos to garner political capital from foreign powers. Her eyes aflame beneath a full black veil, Maryam, one of the refugees, noted, "I swear some of these bombs were American." Packed into a make-shift shelter in the Port city of Aden along with dozens of other families, she insisted, "We saw aircraft — small planes — we had never seen before, zooming above us 24 hours a day and terrifying our children."

Thousands of activists throughout southern Yemen, which had been an independent state until a bloody civil war imposed unification with the North two decades ago, see the al-Qaeda issue as a distraction from their legitimate grievances and calls for autonomy. "The South is rich in oil, and sits along one of the world's biggest shipping lanes," says Hassan al-Bishi, a general in the former South Yemen and anti-government activist. "If the United States continues to ignore our interests and focus only on one silly issue, we must seek other allies...China or Iran, for instance."

Cutting deeply into the country's political conflicts and across its broad expanse, the U.S. bombing offensive risks alienating the youth who will inevitably inherit Yemen's future. "I have one question for you," said one of Abdulrahman's young friends, his gloom turning to anger. "Who can't America kill?"

Yemen regime allows peaceful protest in Sanaa

(AFP) October 27, 2011

SANAA — Yemeni security forces heavily deployed in Sanaa allowed a massive anti-regime rally on Thursday to cross the capital without intervening, for the first time since January, an AFP correspondent reported.

The protesters left Change Square, outside Sanaa University which has become the epicentre of anti-regime demonstrations, and marched towards Al-Zubairi Avenue in central Sanaa.

Over the past months, security forces had opened fire on protesters whenever they attempted to march towards the city centre.

A similar move last month sparked a wave of deadly violence that left dozens dead across the capital.

But security forces, led by President Ali Abdullah Saleh's nephew Yehya, allowed protesters calling for the embattled leader to be prosecuted to peacefully demonstrate.

"Free people of the world, Saleh must be brought to justice," they chanted, calling the leader "a war criminal."

The protest took place as Sanaa was quiet Thursday, following two days of deadly clashes in the capital and Yemen's second largest city Taez.

Yemen has witnessed one of the longest and bloodiest uprisings of the Arab Spring, with hundreds of Yemenis dead and thousands more wounded since January.