Saudi Foreign Investment Delayed Due To Regional Tensions

Saudi Arabia's plan to permit foreign companies, including Exxon Mobil, to develop the kingdom's gas reserves have been delayed by political tensions in the region, an Occidental Petroleum executive has said.

The recent escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, US threats to attack Iraq and the standoff between Pakistan and India are distracting Saudi Arabia's leadership away from talks on three gas projects valued at close to twenty five billion dollars, said Casey Olson, president of Occidental's Middle East operations.

“Events in the region, and around the world, have impacted the time and attention the parties can give to negotiations,” said Olson. Still, he remained confident that all three projects would be “successfully realized.”

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah, who three years ago invited international companies to bid for the gas projects, has spent most of the last three months promoting his Middle East peace plan. Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, who is overseeing the gas project, has been shuttling between Arab capitals soliciting support for the plan ever since Abdullah met President George W. Bush in April.

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