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Consumer Reports

Muslims prepare for the 'Coca-Cola War' | (UPI) -- RIYADH, Saudi Arabia As the United States prepares to launch a war against Iraq, a number of Arab and Muslim countries are preparing for what could be dubbed the "Coca-Cola war," a Saudi newspaper said Saturday.

The Saudi al-Watan daily reported that as the boycott of U.S. products was gaining ground in the Arab and Muslim worlds due to Washington's pro-Israel policies, some companies in the region have begun manufacturing similar products with similar trademark names.

Among these countries is Iran, which producing a soft drink named "Zam Zam Cola," named after the Zamzam holy spring water in Makkah. The company was founded in 1954 and was a longtime partner of Pepsi Cola until their contract was terminated after the 1979 Islamic revolution, the Pakistani daily Dawn said.

According al-Watan, Iran exported about 10 million cans of its cola to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries in the past four months.

It said the Iranian firm was seeking to produce large amounts to meet the demand of the millions of Muslims expected to conduct the haj, or pilgrimage, in Mecca early next year.

The daily added that Zam Zam Cola's success prompted French Muslim Tawfiq Mathlouthi plan the launch of Mecca Cola in Paris next month, allocating 10 percent of the revenues to the Palestinian children.

Zam Zam Cola's sales exceeded all expectations when 4 million cans were sold in the first week the soft drink made its way into the Saudi Arabian market.

A Saudi firm owned by one of the Arab kingdom's princes, Turki Abdallah al-Faisal, this month signed an agreement with the Iranian Zam Zam Group, giving the Saudi company exclusive distribution rights in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and a number of other Arab countries.

Chairman of Zam Zam Group, Ahmad Taheri, said his company's soda drink products managed to reach new export levels in the Arab and Muslim regions, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Afghanistan.

He said the success of the drinks were "largely due to the Arab and Muslim consumers' boycott of American products, which affected soft drinks that carry U.S.-made trademarks."

Taheri said he expected a "good share of the Saudi and Egyptian markets, which are the most important target markets, and which would give us access to enter other Arab markets in western Asia and North Africa."

He said that Zam Zam produces 2.5 billion cans annually, in addition to 100 million cans of non-alcoholic beer, which he said would be doubled soon.

Taheri said that Zam Zam currently owned 16 soft drink factories in Iran that produce cola, orange, lemon and mango flavors, noting that the new factories to be set up in Saudi would be the first to produce Zam Zam outside Iran.

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© 2002, UPI