A Saudi-German plan to launch a dedicated Arabic language search engine for the World Wide Web could revolutionize the moribund Arabic Internet market, a senior official in the project said.

"Sawafi," planned for the last quarter of 2006, could also set a tough challenge for international search giants such as Google, MSN and Yahoo, which offer a basic Arabic search facility at present.

"There is no (full) Arabic Internet search engine on the market. You find so-called search engines, but they involve a directory search, not a local search. There's nothing available for overall Internet search," Hermann Havermann, managing director of German Internet tech firm Seekport, told Reuters.

"If you look at the international search engines, their functionality is non-existent. This market really lacks the support of an Arabic search engine," he said.

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