- The Washington Times - Monday, June 9, 2008

JAPAN

Leading economies confront costly oil

AOMORI | Faced with record-high oil prices, the world’s leading economies and oil consumers Sunday pledged greater investment in energy efficiency and green technologies to control their spiraling thirst for petroleum.

In a joint statement, energy ministers from the Group of Eight countries, joined by China, India and South Korea, also urged oil producers to boost output, which has stalled at about 85 million barrels a day since 2005.

But with little prospect for a surge in production anytime soon, the focus of Sunday’s meeting was on what wealthy nations should do to rein in consumption, while reducing carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

Energy experts say most producers have little ability to expand output. The exception is Saudi Arabia, which is producing about 9.4 million barrels a day and has the ability to increase by about 2 million barrels a day, but has not done so.

The current president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Chakib Khelil, has said that the cartel will make no new decision on production levels until its Sept. 9 meeting in Vienna.

SUDAN

North-south pact settles oil dispute

KHARTOUM | The leaders of Sudan’s northern and southern halves signed an agreement Sunday to settle a dispute over the oil-rich Abyei region that, if implemented, could stop the nation’s slide back into civil war.

President Omar al-Bashir, from the Arab-dominated north, and First Vice President Salva Kiir, of the south, agreed to refer the matter to international arbitration and set up a new interim administration for the troubled border region.

The two sides ended their decades-long ruinous civil war in 2005 with a peace deal that created a unity government and afforded the south a semiautonomous status. But that agreement, including a resolution to their competing claims for Abyei, was never fully implemented because of foot dragging on both sides.

Sunday’s deal is the first time the rivals have agreed to international mediation in the dispute.

EGYPT

Police break up bread price protest

CAIRO| Thousands of demonstrators fought with police after a protest over flour rations in a town on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, a security official and state media said Sunday.

The state-owned daily Al-Ahram said some 8,000 protesters sealed off the main Cairo-Mediterranean highway for seven hours Saturday and burned tires to stop traffic. Police fired tear gas and arrested dozens to disperse the crowd.

A security official said police were questioning 87 suspects.

The protesters were angered by the decision of authorities in Burullus to stop distributing subsidized flour directly to residents and instead deliver it exclusively to bakeries, the official said on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give statements.

Fishermen in Burullus prefer to bake a type of bread suited to long fishing voyages instead of buying the standard subsidized bread from bakeries.

There also have been accusations by the government that people are selling the subsidized flour on the black market for a profit, leading to shortages.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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