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Egypt Creates Sinai Oil Jobs to Quell Bedouin Unrest

Egypt said it will set up an oil services company in Sinai to help create jobs in the peninsula, the scene of clashes between police and Bedouin tribes in recent years.

Sinai for Petroleum Services will drill wells, lay pipelines and build storage tanks in the North Sinai and South Sinai provinces, the Cairo-based Oil Ministry said in a faxed statement today. The company’s chairman and half of the employees will be from the area, the ministry said.

“It’s a welcome development,” Elijah Zarwan, Cairo-based senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said. “One of the local population’s persistent claims is that jobs in the peninsula’s rapidly developing economy go to Egyptians from the Nile Valley,” he said by telephone.

Some Bedouin tribes in Sinai have clashed sporadically with police over the past four years, protesting what they see as government discrimination and a lack of jobs. Interior Minister Habib El-Adli said in June that police only target drugs and arms dealers as well as smugglers who have set up hiding places in central and northern Sinai.

Police rounded up thousands of Sinai Bedouin from 2004 to 2006, most of them without charge, after bomb attacks that targeted beach resorts, killing 150 Egyptians and foreign tourists. The government blamed the attack on a Sinai-based Islamist group.

Egyptian authorities also frequently seize weapon caches in the peninsula, which borders Jordan, the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Egypt’s Oil Ministry said it wants to increase efforts to explore for oil and gas and attract international companies to the peninsula. The Gulf of Suez and Red Sea to the west of Sinai comprise Egypt’s main oil-producing region, where more than 180 rigs operate, according to the ministry.

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