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Consulants reassess plans as Lebanon crisis continues


CONSULTANTS WORKING in the Middle East were this week reviewing their business plans as the war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon continued.

Uncertainty about which other countries might get sucked into the confl ct is forcing British companies to re-examine their strategies for the region.

British overseas construction interests have mainly focused on Dubai and Abu Dhabi where research by NCE shows that UK companies are turning over close to £1bn (NCE 23 March).

However, many businesses have longer-term plans to expand into Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and Oman.

These countries could stop being areas for expansion if the conflict widens.

'[The confl ct] brings back to earth how fragile the Middle East is. We are watching the situation closely. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is more stable, but you can just feel that if there is no fast solution then other countries could be embroiled, ' said WSP Middle East director Tom Smith.

The conflict is also affecting day-to-day business as staff affected by the conflict are understandably preoccupied with events in Lebanon and Israel, said engineers in the region.

'There are a lot of Lebanese people working in senior positions in client organisations, ' said Royal Haskoning director Frank Fortune.

'Many of the educated people fled in the 1980s when the country was torn apart and made their homes all over the Middle East, so lots of companies have been affected, ' he said.

The onflict began last month when Lebanese militant group Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. This provoked Israel to respond with air and military attacks on Lebanon and its infrastructure.

Infrastructure across Lebanon has been targeted and to date ports, airports, roads, bridges, homes and businesses have all been destroyed.

An estimated 800,000 people have been displaced by the war so far.

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