Saudi hospital, tobacco firms to meet over 15-billion-dollar claim
RIYADH, July 18 (AFP) - Representatives from a top Saudi hospital and international tobacco firms are due to meet in Geneva Wednesday for talks on an out-of-court settlement over a 15-billion-dollar claim, a newspaper reported.
The English-language Arab News said the meeting was sought by the Saudi law firm representing the tobacco companies to discuss a lawsuit filed in the United States by the King Faisal Specialist Hospital (KFSH).
KFSH filed the lawsuit in February demanding compensation to cover treatment costs of smoking-related diseases in the oil-rich kingdom over the past 25 years, the paper quoted informed sources as saying.
If negotiations for an out-of-court settlement fail, KFSH will pursue its claim through US courts, they said.
Saudi Arabia, with a population of only 20 million, is the world's 19th largest importer of tobacco products with annual imports worth around 170 million dollars.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which groups Saudi Arabia with Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, has increased a tariff on tobacco to 100 percent and is planning a further hike.