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ABU DHABI - OPEC Middle East Decision Makers.

Among the seven member-emirates of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is the only one which adheres to OPEC decisions. Although membership in OPEC is in the name of the UAE, Dubai and the others in the union act independently. Abu Dhabi's oil/condensate production capacity is in excess of 2.6m b/d and the UAE's oil production quota (excluding condensates) from Nov. 1, 2000 is 2.54m b/d. Yet in its commitment to the OPEC quota, Abu Dhabi always takes into account the oil outputs of Dubai and Sharjah.

Decision making in Abu Dhabi for oil or gas policies involves a small number of people grouped in the Supreme Petroleum Council (SPC). The number of young Abu Dhabian university graduates joining the decision makers increases steadily. The one to watch is Shaikh Sultan Bin Khalifa, the ambitious son of Abu Dhabi's crown prince and SPC chairman, who wants to become the emirate's day-to-day ruler when his father succeeds the ailing Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan (see overleaf).

Aged 84, Shaikh Zayed returned to Abu Dhabi on Nov. 25, 2000 after having stayed for two months in the US, where he had a kidney transplant operation at Cleveland Hospital. Ruler of Abu Dhabi since Aug. 6, 1966 and president of the UAE since it was created in December 1972, Shaikh Zayed is not likely to be active in the running of state affairs.

Officially the day-to-day ruler of Abu Dhabi in his first son, Crown Prince Shaikh Khalifa. But in reality he is not very active and much is being handled presently by the sons of Shaikh Zayed's favourite wife, Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, who are only half-brothers of Shaikh Khalifa. They are in the following order of importance relative to their positions:

Shaikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, the UAE's chief of staff in his late 30s, is a key member of the SPC. Together with Dubai's strongman and Crown Prince Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum who is also the UAE's defence minister, Mohammed Bin Zayed is the force behind the UAE Offset Group (UOG). Established in 1998, UOG resulted from the integration of Dubai's forces into those of the UAE command. It is in charge of channelling defence-related investments into profitable projects in various sectors to help diversify the UAE economy. The funds emanate from the offset investment programme of the federal defence ministry requiring foreign defence suppliers to invest locally an important part of their UAE orders. Among UOG's main offshoots is a multi-billion dollar venture, called Dolphin, to bring huge volumes of natural gas from Qatar's offshore North Field to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman and Pakistan. For this Dolphin and Western partners are to invest heavily in field development, pipelines and gas marketing ventures. Another offshoot is Emirates Basic Industries, which will operate like the Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC).

Zayed's other key sons from Shaikha Fatima include: Hamdan, born in 1963, is UAE state minister for foreign affairs; Hazaa', born in 1965, in charge of intelligence since 1992, chairs the Free Zone Authority; Said, born in 1966, is undersecretary of Abu Dhabi's Planning Department; Mansour is CEO of International Petroleum Investment Co. (IPIC), a 50-50 JV of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC) which has important petroleum assets overseas; Abdullah is UAE's information and culture minister; Ahmad is CEO of ADIA; Brig. Gen. Saif is UAE's deputy interior minister; and Dhiyab is chairman of the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA) and the Abu Dhabi Privatisation Committee - and, more important, he is director of the Presidential Court.

ADIA is the most powerful body in Abu Dhabi, followed by ADNOC, with the SPC members representing both and other power centres. Obaid Bin Saif Al Nasseri, UAE's Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister belongs to ADIA.

Crown Prince Shaikh Khalifa, born in 1947 as the first son of Shaikh Zayed and made his heir in 1969, chairs the SPC as well as the emirate's Executive Council (local government) and other institutions. He is the deputy commander in chief of the armed forces. He will be Abu Dhabi's ruler when Shaikh Zayed dies. His most powerful allies include ADNOC's ex-chairman Shaikh Tahnoun Bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, who is deputy chairman of the SPC as well as the governor of the Eastern Province whose capital is Al Ain. Khalifa is married to one of Tahnoun's favourite daughters. Tahnoun has married his favourite son Said to Khalifa's favoured daughter.

Sultan Bin Khalifa, the crown prince's most favoured son, is now formally referred to as: His Highness Shaikh Dr. Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Office of H.H. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Member of the Executive Council (local government) and Honorary President of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. A tall and bold figure, he has recently received a doctorate decree from the University of Al Ain. He has turned his office into a real powerhouse, with aides, advisors and consultants dealing with all matters of importance. Organisers of big conferences seek his patronage to make sure their event will be a success.

It remains to be seen whether Sultan's role as day-to-day ruler in the post-Zayed era will be supported by Ahmad Bin Khalifa Al Suwaidi, the most senior among Shaikh Zayed's aides and one of the most respected figures in the Arab World, or will lead to major changes in Abu Dhabi's leadership, ADIA, the SPC and ADNOC.
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Publication:APS Review Oil Market Trends
Date:Dec 4, 2000
Words:911
Previous Article:Part 1 - OPEC's Middle East Decision Makers - New Series.
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