Last September a doctor in a Saudi hospital was fired for reporting a new, deadly strain of the coronavirus. Now, with half of all confirmed cases ending in death, the World Health Organisation has issued a global alert and scientists are preparing for the worst• Coronavirus victim's widow tells of griefIn mid-June last year, Ali Mohamed Zaki, a virologist at the Dr Soliman Fakeeh Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, took a call from a doctor who was worried about a patient. The 60-year-old man had been admitted to the hospital with severe viral pneumonia and the doctor wanted Zaki to identify the virus. Zaki obtained sputum from the patient and set to work. He ran the usual lab tests. One after another they came back negative.Puzzled by the results, Zaki sent a sample to a leading virology lab at Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam. While he waited for the Dutch team to examine the virus, Zaki tried one more test of his own. This time he got a positive result. It showed the infectious agent belonged to a family of pathogens called coronaviruses. The common cold is caused by a coronavirus. So is the far more deadly infection Sars. Zaki quickly emailed the Dutch lab to raise the alarm. Their tests confirmed his fears, but went further: this was a coronavirus no one had seen before.To alert other scientists, Zaki posted a note on proMED, an internet reporting system designed to rapidly share details of infectious diseases and outbreaks with researchers and public health agencies. The move cost him dearly. A week later, Zaki was back in his native Egypt, his contract at the hospital severed, he says, under pressure from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health. "They didn't like that this appeared on proMED. They forced the hospital to terminate my contract," Zaki told the Guardian from Cairo. "I was obliged to leave my work because of this, but it was my duty. This is a serious virus."Just how serious was clear by then. While Zaki had worked to identify the virus, the patient's health had declined. His pneumonia worsened; his breath got shorter. His kidneys and other organs began to falter and fail. Despite all the drugs and dialysis, and mechanical ventilation to help him breathe, the man was dead 11 days after he arrived at the hospital.On its own, the Jeddah case was more intriguing than terrifying. Though much was made of the virus being related to the one that causes Sars, which spread to more than 30 countries and killed 800 people in 2003, the two are genetically very different. Sars was scary because it spread so easily and killed so often. It circulated in families, and tore through hospitals. The Jeddah patient was but a single case.Or so it seemed. Since the virus came to light in September last year, the number of cases has risen to 15. More than half have died. The latest death was a 39-year-old man, reported by Saudi Arabia this week. The numbers are not yet alarming, but the steady appearance of fresh cases, and the fact that the infection has now spread from person to person, has sparked an intensive effort to understand the virus, and quietly prepare for the worst."We don't know whether this virus has the capability to trigger a full epidemic. We are completely in the dark about it," says Ron Fouchier, a molecular virologist at Erasmus Medical Centre whose lab identified Zaki's virus. "We think what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg, but we don't know how big the iceberg is, or where the iceberg is."Across from the Houses of Parliament on the bank of the river Thames is St Thomas's Hospital, London. In September last year, doctors at the intensive care unit were struggling to diagnose a 49-year-old man from Doha, Qatar, who had arrived by air ambulance with a serious respiratory infection. He was being treated in strict isolation. The man had a virus, that much was clear, but the nature of the infection was a mystery. He had recently visited Saudi Arabia.Stumped by the case, doctors at the hospital alerted the Health Protection Agency's Imported Fever Service which began its own investigation. Scientists ran tests on the Qatari man to exclude common infections. They then had a stroke of luck. The night they completed the first round of tests, two scientists on the HPA team logged on to proMED at home. There on the screen was a note published earlier that day from a Professor Zaki at a hospital in Saudi Arabia. It announced the discovery of a new and deadly coronavirus. The patient had almost identical symptoms to the Qatari man.The next day, a Friday, the HPA ran fresh tests. The results were ominous. Tests for specific and well-known coronaviruses came up negative. But a general test for the coronavirus family was positive. That strongly suggested they were dealing with the same bug that had killed the man in Jeddah. The HPA's investigation switched up a gear. By late that Saturday, they had examined the virus's genetic make-up and compared it with results Fouchier's team had worked up on the Saudi virus. The viruses were 99.5% identical. The HPA immediately told the World Health Organisation, which issued a global alert on the Sunday night."Suddenly this became much more interesting," says Tony Mounts, head of pandemic monitoring and surveillance at the World Health Organisation. "We now had two cases occuring several months apart, of a virus in the same family as Sars, and both cases had bad pneumonias." The severity of the infection was only one concern though. Just weeks later, millions of pilgrims were due to arrive in Mecca for hajj. If the virus was lurking in the region, this was the perfect chance for it to spread. "You have three million people coming in from all over the world who could potentially carry a novel pathogen home with them," says Mounts. "It took on some urgency."In the event, hajj came and went with no surge in cases. But more cropped up elsewhere in the region. A Doha man fell ill and was transferred to a specialist lung hospital in Essen, Germany. He recovered and was discharged a month later. Back in Saudi Arabia, the virus struck a household in Riyadh, where a man lived with his two sons. One of the younger men died. More worrying still was a cluster of cases in Jordan. In April 2012, 11 people, including eight healthcare workers, went down with a mystery respiratory illness. Posthumous tests on two who died were positive for the new virus. The others probably had the same infection, albeit more mildly, but follow-up tests were never done.Last month, British health officials reported the first infection in a UK resident. The man, Abid Hussain, who is in intensive care in Manchester, fell ill on a trip to the Middle East. He flew to Pakistan to visit family, but stopped in Mecca on the way home to pray for his son, Khalid, who was being treated for brain cancer. Soon after Abid arrived home, his son, who was on drugs to suppress his immune system, picked up the virus and died days later at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Abid's sister caught the virus too, but quickly recovered.Khalid leaves a wife, Azima, and twin boys, who will be three tomorrow. "They keep asking, 'Where's daddy? When is dad coming home?', but they're too young to know what's going on," Azima told the Guardian. The cluster of infections in the family has convinced scientists that the virus can spread from person to person, albeit rarely.As the counter clicked up on fresh cases of infection, scientists focused on some crucial questions. How easily does the virus spread? Where did it come from? How are people infected? As of now, the answers are a string of don't knows.There are no signs that the virus spreads easily from person to person. The HPA followed up 60-odd people, including doctors and nurses, who came into contact with the patient at St Thomas's Hospital. They traced more than 100 others who had contact with the British family. None tested positive for the virus.So far, so reassuring. But the virus will mutate and may adapt to spread more easily, scientists warn. "That is what we are worried about," says Eric Snijder, head of molecular virology at Leiden University. "If that happened you might get a pandemic variant that spreads easily, and that would be a major problem."No one knows where the virus came from, but scientists have an idea. When researchers ran the genetic sequence through a library of known coronaviruses, it closely matched a strain that resides in pipistrelle bats. If the connection with bats sounds familiar, there is good reason. The Sars virus was also tracked to bats, though it spread to humans via infected civet cats. The suspicion over the latest virus prompted the Saudi Arabian government to call in the Columbia University team to survey bats in the surrounds of Bisha city, home to the first patient identified with the virus by Zaki. The team has yet to publish its findings, but whatever they are, they will not complete the picture. The first animal found to harbour the virus might not be the one that spreads it to people.Many scientists suspect an intermediary beast is carrying the new bug from bats to people. Testimonies from those infected are few and far between: some patients are still in intensive care, others are dead. But hints may be emerging. The Doha man treated in Germany owned a goat farm and told doctors that some of his goats had been sick before he fell ill. That wasn't all. The animals' keeper also picked up a respiratory infection that was serious enough to land him in hospital. The story points to goats as a culprit until the other testimonies are considered: several patients reported no contact with animals.The new virus may be lurking in companion or farm animals in Saudi Arabia and perhaps Jordan and Qatar, but these countries are major importers of animals too. "I could easily imagine a situation where this virus is hiding out in bats in Sudan or Pakistan, their domestic livestock get infected, and are transported into these countries," says Mounts.No one expects an answer soon. For all the concern in public health agencies, almost nothing is being done on the ground to work out what animal, or animals, are spreading the virus to people. That, says Fouchier, is not good enough. He wants Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and neighbouring countries to test goats, sheep, camels, horses, and other animals for the virus. Since the expedition to survey bats in Bisha, efforts to screen animals for the virus have faltered. Asked what was being done in affected countries to trace the infection in animals, Juan Lubroth, the chief veterinary officer at the WHO said: "To my knowledge, there is no activity. We are very much in the dark."People in the region should be screened too, says Fouchier. He wants to see random tests at human blood banks to see how prevalent the virus is in the population. These tests, and those on animals, are simple and would nail two major questions: where is the virus hiding out, and how common is it?"We think the virus is circulating either among humans in a particular region of the world, or among animals, probably domestic animals, from which there is crossover into humans. Discriminating between those two possibilities is crucial, but very little is being done to find out," says Fouchier.Some of the countries concerned have bigger problems on their plates, but there is good reason to do the work. Sars was circulating below the radar of governments long before it began killing in the hundreds. The new virus has been picked up quickly, largely thanks to better surveillance brought in after Sars. A precautionary approach now could save scores of lives later.In the early days of the Sars outbreak, foot-dragging and a lack of openness by affected countries made containing the virus much tougher. The situation with the new coronavirus is similar, and has spurred European scientists to make early prepartions for an outbreak rather than nipping the virus in the bud. "We are now really taking an alternative path where Europe will prepare for the worst," says Fouchier. "We are going to have to do more now, not in terms of prevention, but in terms of intervention once this virus enters Europe more frequently."As a precaution, a European group called Silver, to which Fouchier belongs, has begun to screen hundreds of drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration that might work against the virus. The rationale is simple: if more cases turn up, in Birmingham, Munich or Paris, then doctors at least have a drug they can reach for – a first line of defence. If the worst came to pass, and a pandemic threatened, the drugs may buy time to make a vaccine."We are down to seven or eight drugs that do something against the coronavirus, but we now need to repeat the process to be sure that activity means something," Snijder told the Guardian. Sooner or later, any promising drugs must be tested in animals, but here lies another problem. So far, there is no "animal model" in which to test the drugs.Zaki now works at Ain Shams university in Cairo. In the weeks ahead, he plans to check blood samples from patients at one of the city's hospitals to see if any infections have gone unnoticed or unreported. He stands by his decision to announce the strain to the world, despite the objections of Saudi health officials. "I wasn't sure at the time what was going on," he said. "I didn't know what I had in my hands."Additional reporting by Mark SmithInfectious diseasesMedical researchMicrobiologyHealth & wellbeingIan Sampleguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
From an interview at Real News with Patrick Bond (the Director of the Center for Civil Society and Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa): And the idea is that if you value the environment, you should put a price tag on it so that its destruction is not just a [free] activity—so say the proponents. But critics say this is equivalent to neoliberalizing nature or privatizing the air in the case of climate and carbon trading. And what became even trickier was in Doha the idea called loss and damage, which is another way of saying that the North owes the South a climate debt for the huge destructive force. I mean, Barack Obama just asked for some $60 billion from Congress to clean up after Sandy. And so this is the sort of huge scale of loss and damage, and even more so in the Third World, the main victims of climate change here in Africa, maybe 200 million deaths anticipated this century. And the big question we'll all be asking in the coming months: can you put a price on it? And if you do so, in order for the North to pay up, does that mean that you endorse markets for the environment? And that's a tricky situation for many environmentalists not wanting to go too far towards neoliberal nature, but on the other hand, demanding a climate and an ecological debt be paid.[snip] And one of the finest theorists, Larry Lohmann at Corner House group, explained it to me in Rio very simply, and I think we all should learn from Larry Lohmann. He said the difference between a fine on a big corporation, for example, Texaco—Texaco, now Chevron, polluted about $8 billion worth in the Ecuadoran Amazon, and a court found them guilty. Of course, they're refusing to pay. They're a big U.S. corporation. And the idea is they should be fined and then banned from doing that again. And that is an acceptable strategy for progressive environmentalists. The problem is if you allow that activity to be mandated through a fee, a fee for an ecosystem service. And it's in that very nuanced distinction between putting a price on something because you value it and making someone who destroys it pay for the damage on the one hand, which I think is reasonable—on the other hand, the danger would be if you try to create markets. And this is what's really running rampant. Here in southern Africa, natural capital will soon be actually calculated as a way to correct gross domestic product, something that's way overdue, because GDP, what economists like to do to measure growth, ignores environmental destruction, not to mention women's unpaid labor or community activism or crime or family breakdown. All of these important things are not measured. And the attempt to correct it, natural capital, if it's used properly, would give us a whole new dimension on whether we should be extracting at the rate, for example, here in our platinum mines we do which led to the Marikana Massacre in August. And that's the sort of question that I think environmentalists and community activists and labor movements, women's groups, will be asking more and more. Is it really worth it? And should we not be calculating into a cost-benefit analysis the destructive capacity of capital when it meets nature, and then trying to prevent that process from becoming something like a carbon market or offsets for biodiversity? And a green economy strategy of the World Bank of many big agencies leans towards markets. And this is going to be the struggle of 2013, I predict. (emphasis italics are mine)
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani becomes first Arab leader in years to visit the impoverished coastal Gaza stripSheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is used to basking in the limelight. But when the emir of Qatar arrived in Gaza on Tuesday – the first Arab leader in years to visit the impoverished coastal strip – he was hailed for breaking its siege, demonstrating his country's huge and growing influence in the Middle East.Palestinians rolled out the red carpet for the emir as his black Mercedes bumped along a rutted main road that he has promised to rebuild, past white and maroon Qatari flags, the song Thank You, Qatar playing endlessly on local radio and TV.Sheikh Hamad flew to Egypt and crossed the border into Gaza, a move billed as breaking the blockade in force since the Islamists of Hamas took power in 2007. It also underlined the ability of the tiny, fabulously rich Gulf state to punch above its weight internationally.He arrived with 90 tonnes of aid and pledged $400m (£250m) to invest in housing and infrastructure to replace property damaged in the 2008-09 war with Israel.Flanked by his wife, the elegant and high-profile Sheikha Mozah, he spoke to a large crowd at Gaza's Islamic University, the biggest event of a six-hour stay.The last head of state to visit the strip was King Abdullah of Jordan, who went there in 1999 for talks with then Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat.Predictably, the brief royal visit was the top news item on al-Jazeera, the satellite TV channel owned by the emir's family and which has been an unabashed and influential cheerleader for the uprisings of the Arab spring from Tunisia to Syria.Qatar's ambitious move was a stunning boost for Hamas, shunned by Israel, the US and western countries as a terrorist organisation. Ismail Haniyeh, its deposed prime minister, called it a historic event that had broken the "unjust blockade"."The visit gives Hamas legitimacy in the Arab world and internationally," said Mkhaimar Abusada, an independent analyst at Gaza's al-Azhar university. It was further striking evidence that Qatar, whose per-capita income is now the highest in the world, is in effect using its enormous oil and gas riches and close ties to Islamist organisations to expand its regional influence in the wake of its involvement in the uprisings against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad in Syria."The emir is confirming that Qatar is the principal supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood takeover in Egypt and everywhere else," said Ahmed Asfahani, the respected al-Hayat newspaper columnist. "Qatar is using the Brotherhood to promote its own interests. It also shows that Qatar is trying to replace Iran as a major player on the Palestinian issue."Observers in the region also see the visit in part as a reward to Hamas for ending its support for Assad. Until a few months ago, the movement's exiled leadership was based in Damascus, helping bolster Syria's credentials as a key member of the "axis of resistance" confronting Israel, along with Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon.But its veteran leader, Khalid Mish'al, decamped to Doha. And Haniyeh came out in open support of the right of the Syrian people to oppose Assad.Mahmoud Abbas, the western-backed Palestinian president and leader of Fatah, had let it be known from his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah that he was furious about the visit, which plays into the hands of his bitterest rival. "Nobody's happy about it," said one Palestinian source. "It definitely makes a statement. And of course there is a track record of Arab regimes playing into intra-Palestinian politics."The PLO welcomed any help with reconstruction in Gaza, but called on "all Arab brethren to … use their leverage to ensure an end to the division and the policy of creating a separatist entity in the Gaza Strip, as [this] principally serves the Israeli agenda." There is also an unspoken fear of eroding the claim of Abbas's Palestinian Authority to be the sole representative of the Palestinians.Israel angrily condemned the Qatari visit as well. "We find it weird that the emir doesn't support all of the Palestinians but sides with Hamas over the Palestinian Authority [in the West Bank] which he has never visited," said its foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor. "The emir has chosen his camp and it is not good."In the background, it is possible to discern a new pattern of relations emerging in a political landscape transformed by the Arab spring in which a key player is the Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.In the era of Hosni Mubarak, Qatar was often at loggerheads with Egypt, which, like many other Arab governments, hated al-Jazeera and saw it as a disruptive instrument of Qatari policy. Even now, Doha is being more radical than Cairo. Formally, Egypt considers Abbas as the representative of Palestinians and Gaza as under PA authority (or that the end state of Palestinian reconciliation should be a West Bank and Gaza united under PA control). The emir called publicly for efforts to promote reconciliation between the Palestinian rivals to confront Israel. "It will be interesting to see if Qatar is now going to play a more active role in mediating between Hamas and Fatah, or even Hamas and Israel," said Abusada.Doha has won admiration and irritation in equal measure in the Middle East and beyond. Uniquely, it maintains cordial, if low-key, relations with Israel as well as Iran, hated by other Gulf Arabs. It is also home to a large US air base. Its wealth speaks eloquently. In September, it announced plans to invest $18bn over five years in Egypt. Its aid also helped reconstruction in south Lebanon after the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. At that time, the emir worked closely with Assad, only to turn against him when the Syrian uprising began 19 months ago. In Libya last year, Qatar bankrolled the anti-Gaddafi rebels but channelled resources through Islamist brigades only to face criticism later that it was behaving in a manipulative manner. Now Qatar has become a key supporter of the armed Syrian opposition, amid growing concern in the west that the weapons it pays for are reaching jihadi-type groups rather than democratic forces.Among its other accomplishments, Qatar is to host the 2022 World Cup, having defeated bidders including the US and Japan. Following intense lobbying it also recently managed to join La Francophonie – the 57-member bloc of French-speaking nations – as an associate member. French is barely spoken in Qatar but it insists it is committed to promoting use of the language.GazaQatarPalestinian territoriesMiddle East and North AfricaIan BlackHarriet Sherwoodguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Четвертый по величине активов банк Катара Doha Bank может привлечь около 5,1 млрд реалов ($1,4 млрд) путем продажи акций с целью расширения своей деятельности на зарубежных рынках. Следует отметить, что продажа бумаг намечена на первый квартал 2013 года.
AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY: Leonard McCarthy, Integrity Vice President, The World Bank Group Arab Forum on Asset Recovery Doha, Qatar September 11, 2012 Your Excellencies, esteemed guests, and ladies and gentlemen: On behalf of the Stolen Assets Recovery (StAR) initiative – and on behalf of the World Bank Group – it is a great pleasure to join in welcoming you to this important conference. And it is an honor to salute the foundation of the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery. It is significant that the word “justice” is central in the logo for this Forum – symbolizing the moral, legal and social imperatives that inspire this event. Justice will not be complete until the funds looted by corrupted officials have been returned to the people to whom they rightfully belong. The title of our gathering, the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery, has more than symbolic significance. This must be an Arab Forum on the imperative of asset recovery. This is an opportunity for the countries of the Arab world to take ownership of this priority. Restoration of the wealth they truly own is a vital factor in restoring social cohesion among the countries of the Arab Spring In a strong signal of determination, the Arab world has committed itself to taking this mission forward. By following through, the Arab community will “raise the bar” for good governance in the countries where democracy is now taking root. The return of these stolen assets is – obviously – not an Arab-only issue. This Forum is the place for partnership and collective action – bringing together the G8, the Deauville Partners, and officials from throughout this region to coordinate our action-steps. This forum convenes at a critical moment: when public expectations are high, and when the thirst for justice is acute – but when the actual return of assets remains limited. Although we have made progress, the public has elevated expectations for quick and decisive action. The same social media that helped propel the Arab Spring are now monitoring the actions of the region’s new governments – and are watching what we do here this week. Some of today’s public expectations for speed may be hard to meet – yet the demand for accountability is surely legitimate. For countries in transition, managing public expectations will be difficult. No one knows better than they do that their public legitimacy is at stake as they seek to rectify historical abuses. Achieving results can be accomplished, because the legal and institutional frameworks that now exist are adequate to the task – even if they can be further strengthened. The key factor that is missing, however, is the technical capacity to use those frameworks as effectively as possible. In this context, the StAR initiative is honored to be one of the co-convenors of this conference. As a joint initiative of two global bodies – the World Bank and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime – we can deliver knowledge and guidance about worldwide best practices, uniting expertise in law enforcement, legal processes and judicial procedures. As you may know, StAR’s work is built atop three pillars: advocacy; partnerships to foster collective responsibility and promote action; and technical support, to create channels for information-sharing, and to build capacity on asset recovery. StAR is ready to help you in the development of a coordinated strategy and operational steps – including improving domestic coordination; integrating and improving mutual legal assistance approaches; and providing training programs for practitioners. We can serve as a facilitator for governments, in all aspects of asset recovery. Through an active “quiet diplomacy,” StAR has been engaged with Arab countries in transition – including Egypt, Tunisia and Libya – in seeking the return of assets from various jurisdictions, most represented here today. What the Forum can ultimately deliver belongs first and foremost to all of you. Both the Deauville process and other international fora – not least the Conference of State Parties of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, convened in Marrakesh last year – have already provided clear roadmaps. Vital and necessary steps have already been taken. Still, we need to collectively change gears and to make concrete progress on international cooperation in pursuing ongoing cases. From the StAR perspective, allow me to add some ideas about the way forward. This Forum must be an opportunity to “raise the bar,” operationally. We need to ensure that – there will be the appropriate depth of dialogue among policymakers, criminal-justice practitioners and public advocates. The test will be the actual return of stolen assets. We hear assertions that the legal frameworks are now in place and that practitioners are actively mobilized. Results, however, are still limited. Western and regional financial centers should take a more pro-active approach. Taking a “wait and see” attitude is too passive, especially for countries that have adopted stronger anti-money-laundering laws. Take action on your own; open your own proceedings; pro-actively reach out to transition countries. Make sure that all the needed resources are mobilized to conduct your own investigations and to reply swiftly to requests for assistance. Of course, financial centers can only conduct successful proceedings if they receive evidence of the illegal origin of the assets. The transition countries requesting asset-tracing, seizure and recovery must be more pro-active in bringing evidence, seeking requests and closing the gap – linking specific assets to specific criminal behaviors. We often hear that mutual legal assistance processes are broken. This is an exaggeration. Due process is, of course, critical. But once the legal process has run its course, with all its safeguards met, stolen assets must be returned. Our experience is this: What is too often described as excessive bureaucratic delay is actually a reflection of a lack of mutual understanding – and a lack of effort by practitioners (on both sides) to engage their counterparts before filing requests for assistance. Such a full engagement will only happen if practitioners are strongly supported and encouraged in “going the extra mile”. We have a unique opportunity here this week. Policymakers and international institutions can reinvigorate the political will to achieve results. We can identify remaining barriers and begin to remove them. We can build trust and improved understanding among practitioners managing the cases. In practical terms: We can examine where we all stand in using the international cooperation and confiscation frameworks – and we can be creative in how we use and improve them. We can make sure that domestic coordination and exchange of information is effective – and we can identify the remaining gaps. We can identify technical-assistance needs and address them in a coordinated fashion. And we can discuss, bilaterally, actual international cooperation cases, to agree on priorities and action plans. Success in resolving cases and returning assets will define our success. As you prepare to take advantage of the resources that this conference brings together, StAR will mobilize all its expertise to support you, helping build trust among practitioners through quiet diplomacy. I am confident that this conference will honor the aspirations of the people who have fought so hard to win their freedom. . . and that the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery will fulfill the hopes of people everywhere who yearn to see that justice will be done. Thank you very much.
Heathrow especially in danger of losing status as global conduit of air traffic warns airline's CEO, James HoganLack of long-term planning will damage British aviation as the Gulf hubs grow and passengers bypass Heathrow for long-haul trips, the boss of one of the world's fastest-growing airlines has warned.James Hogan, chief executive of Etihad, the Abu Dhabi flag carrier, said decisions about allocating fleets and routes for the next 30 years are being taken now and airlines were unsure about Britain's position in their plans. The expansion of Heathrow, while officially ruled out by current government policy, has been thrown back on the agenda by industry lobbying.Hogan said he would like greater access to Heathrow but that the airport was "maxed out" and his airline was not interested in off peak slots that would not command traffic. "London plc needs a competitive gateway – and a long-term decision needs to be taken about where that is. As we plan our gateway 30 years out, London needs to do the same."He said a new airport meant building "infrastructure, schools, housing", adding: "When cities make decisions about an airport the infrastructure moves towards it - but that doesn't happen overnight." Hogan said most people outside London would bypass Heathrow if they could use a local airport and "would rather do one [airport] scanner than two".He also affirmed his airline "was in Manchester for the long haul". The European call centre for Etihad is now in Manchester. Two flights daily operate to Abu Dhabi, while its bigger, more established Gulf rival, Emirates, runs three daily flights to its hub in Dubai. Qatar Airways also runs daily services from Manchester to the third major, growing Gulf hub of Doha. Hogan said the constraints on British aviation would give the Gulf the competitive edge.Etihad was formed in 2003 but started to expand rapidly from 2006 when Hogan was appointed to the top job with a mandate to buy aircraft and grow the business. In 2008 he placed a $43bn (£27.3bn) order for up to 205 aircraft and he expects to have 160 in operation by 2017. A new runway and terminal has since been constructed at Abu Dhabi airport, along with offices and accommodation for thousands of expat employees.Etihad's name has become familiar to millions as the name ofManchester City's stadium. It has sponsored the Premier League champions since 2009 and Hogan claimed the deal was "on strict commercial terms, although we were very lucky to get the terms" and was struck independently of the fact that the team is bankrolled by one of the Abu Dhabi plutocrats, Sheikh Mansour. He said he "treats the City CEO exactly as I do the CEO of Harlequins", the rugby club Etihad also sponsors, although he confessed to having no idea of the latter's name.He insisted that the Abu Dhabi gazillions did not give Etihad a licence to lose money. "I don't get free fuel or sovereign guarantees when I raise debt with the banks - it's all on the strength of our business."Hogan said it was premature to describe the Gulf as a world centre for aviation, although he said its position at the crossroads of global air traffic and particularly the proximity to the relatively untapped Indian market would give its airlines and hubs huge opportunity. He warned: "This is a long-term game and the challenge to the European hubs is growing."In the meantime the Gulf hubs are trying to assert their position at the expense of longstanding south-east Asian stops on the "kangaroo route" – a development that could spell further bad news for British airlines. Reports suggest that the long-standing partnership between British Airways and Qantas may be at risk as the Australian carrier looks to switch its international focus to the Gulf, via a tie-up with Emirates. Qantas, which has been losing money rapidly on its international flights, has also faced increased competition due to Etihad's own tie-up with Virgin Australia.Airline industryAir transportHeathrow third runwayTravel and transportLondonMiddle East and North AfricaGwyn Tophamguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds