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UPDATE 1-Kerry visits Riyadh to soothe fears of stronger Iran under nuclear deal

*Saudis fear Obama wants Iran deal "whatever the cost". Secretary of State John Kerry flies to Riyadh this week to try to reassure King Salman that any nuclear deal with Iran will be in Saudi interests, despite the kingdom's fears that it may boost Tehran's backing for Shi'ite Muslim groups in the region. While the main critics of the U.S. push for a nuclear deal with...
Source: Reuters | By: Arshad Mohammed and Angus McDowall
What weakness? UAE chiefs dismiss IMF warning

Bosses from the Gulf have dismissed the IMF's recent concerns for the region after oil price weakness.
Source: CNBC.com | By: Jenny Cosgrave
US drone strike in Yemen kills 3 suspected al-Qaida fighters

SANAA, Yemen- A suspected U.S. drone strike Saturday in central Yemen killed three men believed to be al-Qaida militants, security officials said. The U.S. has launched several strikes in recent weeks, reflecting Washington's resolve to keep fighting the militants despite Yemen's political paralysis. Meanwhile Saturday, the Shiite rebels who control Yemen's...
Source: The Associated Press | By: AHMED AL-HAJ, Associated Press
Iran blows up mock US warship in defense drill

During war games, Iran state TV shows missiles hitting a full-scale model of U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. USA Today reports.
Source: USA Today | By: Katharine Lackey
DIARY-Emerging Markets Economic Events to March 4

ROME- OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria will present the Economic Survey of Italy at a news conference with Economy Minister and Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan. SINGAPORE- Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will deliver the 2015 Budget statement in the Parliament- 0500 GMT. JERUSALEM- Bank of Israel announces...
Source: Reuters
MIDEAST DEBT-Confident Gulf bond market shrugs off S&P downgrades

*S&P cuts Saudi outlook, Bahrain and Oman ratings. Taken together, S&P's actions were the biggest move by a rating agency in the Gulf since the price of Brent crude plunged below $60 a barrel in December, from $115 last June. It lowered the ratings of the two financially weakest states in the Gulf Cooperation Council by one notch- Bahrain fell to "BBB-/A-3," and Oman to "...
Source: Reuters | By: Archana Narayanan and Andrew Torchia
UPDATE 1-S&P cuts ratings on Middle Eastern oil producing countries

Feb 9- Standard& Poor's cut the ratings and outlook of several oil producing countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, citing the recent sharp decline in oil prices. Oil producers' organization OPEC, which counts Saudi Arabia as one of its prominent members, decided late last year to maintain its output despite slowing demand.
Source: Reuters
UPDATE 2-Big Saudi firms to pay bonuses, imitating royal handout

RIYADH/ KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia, Feb 2- Several of Saudi Arabia's largest listed companies said on Monday they would pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses, days after the new king ordered a handout to Saudi state employees to mark his accession. Saudi Arabia has sold minority stakes in big state firms and listed them on its bourse partly to expose them to...
Source: Reuters | By: Marwa Rashad and Reem Shamseddine