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Nervous times in the Middle East

Despite huge uncertainty about the political and economic future of the Middle East, bankers there say they are still busy and that life is carrying on as normal.

"We have stepped up security a bit at our seven branches but we are still fully operational and have not changed our lending policies," says Naved Khan, head of ABN Amro's operations in Pakistan. At the time of going to press, Standard Chartered Bank's branch in Peshawar was still open. "It is business as normal," a source told Euromoney. First-class seats on flights to Cairo and Tehran may be easier to obtain than they were following the imposition of travel restrictions by some international banks, but they are far from empty.

"I was in Tehran four days after the tragedy and there were still plenty of people around doing business," says Gilles Franck, head of debt capital markets in the Middle East at BNP Paribas, one of the 10 firms bidding to arrange Iran's inaugural sovereign Eurobond.

One or two banks have repatriated the families of international staff working in Egypt and Pakistan but almost all European and US bankers are still at their posts.

"I see no reason to leave," says Joe Divis, managing director of the Egyptian British Bank (recently acquired by HSBC). "Security is an issue for anyone working in the Middle East and has been for many years.

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