Experts: Mideast violence to affect Houston

June 6, 2011 4:18:06 AM PDT
It may be happening thousands of miles away, but experts say it's critical that Houston focus on the escalating violence in the Middle East. As the unsettling situation in the Mideast and North Africa continues to balloon, even minor players among the world's oil producers can't be dismissed.

That is why experts here are closely watching what's unfolding there.

"We're not just a major city in Texas, we are the energy capital of the world," Mideast expert Mustafa Tameez said.

Tameez says if attacks continue to spread, the price of oil may be at stake.

This week, Yemen's president and top senior figures fled to Saudi Arabia after rebels attacked their presidential palace. Now, the fear is that the oil rich Saudi refineries could become a prime target.

"That could have a very significant impact on oil production," Tameez said.

Next week, OPEC will meet and Iran will preside over the conference for the first time in three decades.

On Saturday, Reza Pahlavi -- son of the shah of Iran, exiled 30 years ago -- was in southwest Houston, addressing hundreds in what some believe may be a quiet campaign.

His message was encouraging freedom and democracy for iran while opening relations between that country and the United States.

"[Pahlavi] wants to be one of the choices of the Iranian people, and he kept re-emphasizing that people have to choose their own government," Kathy Soltani with the Iranian Cultural Foundation said.

Iran's 2009 youth revolt and so-called green movement is noted by some as the impetus for uprisings in Arab countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Dr. Mohamed Nejib Karoui is visiting Houston from Tunisia on a charity mission. His NGO provides aid to more than 180,000 Libyan refugees who crossed into neighboring Tunisia with nothing.

While fundraising across America, Karoui is looking ahead with hope to his country's October 16 election.

"This will be the real date of perhaps our independence. Our real independence," Karou said.

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