Gulf markets slump on regional unrest
CAIRO | Gulf Arab stock markets slumped Tuesday and the cost of insuring Bahrain’s debt surged, as investor unease with the political volatility in the tiny island nation appeared poised to grow with the declaration of a three-month state of emergency.
The declines, also fueled by fears of further trouble in earthquake and tsunami-battered Japan, reflected the continuing volatility in Mideast markets, where weeks of anti-regime protests that have swept through the Arab world are crafting daily a new political dynamic while unsettling investors.
“It’s to be expected, given what’s happening today in Bahrain,” said John Sfakianakis, chief economist for the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Banque Saudi-Fransi. “The shock waves are felt throughout the region.”
Israelis stop ship bearing arms
JERUSALEM | Israel intercepted a ship carrying a large delivery of weapons off the country’s Mediterranean coast on Tuesday, saying the weapons were sent by Iran and Syria for Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
The incident was the latest in a string of Israeli naval operations against smugglers it accuses of arming Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Israel has long contended that Iran and Syria provide arms and other support to Hamas and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he ordered the takeover overnight Tuesday after receiving intelligence about the arms shipment.
The military said the cargo vessel “Victoria” initially departed from the Syrian port of Lattakia before proceeding to Mercin in Turkey. From there it was headed for the port of Alexandria in Egypt when it was intercepted.
Israel said there were no signs that Turkey or Egypt were involved in the arms shipment.
Junta dissolves state security agency
CAIRO | Egypt’s interior minister on Tuesday dissolved the country’s widely hated state security agency, which is accused of torture and other human rights abuses in the suppression of dissent against ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly 30-year rule.