Monthly Archives: November 2011

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The currency exchange prices in the Kingdom and the world expected to remain stable thanks to dollar reserves.

JEDDAH: During a seminar hosted by Sidra Capital, leading Turkish Economist and Strategist Erda Gercek reiterated that the Saudi currency would not be affected by the depreciation of the US currency. He emphasized that the currency exchange prices in the Kingdom and the world will remain stable thanks to dollar reserves.

Gercek’s made the statement at the seminar during which the demise of the dollar and its future as world’s reserve currency was presented. Gercek gave an overview of the global financial and economic situation and provided further insight into the future of the dollar and its impact on the riyal.
Hani Baothman, CEO of Sidra Capital, said: “We hosted this seminar in order to shed light on the current volatility in the market as a result of the euro crisis which has ballooned with each passing day, in addition to the festering economic crisis in the United States as a result of its political indecision to tackle the mounting budget deficit and the swelling of its public debt.”
He added: “Our aim is to connect with our shareholders and stakeholders in order to provide them with the most relevant and most objective information as it pertains to the persistent doubts about the ability of the US administration to face the challenges ahead and what it means to the position of the dollar as a reserve currency and how that might affect its position against the worlds’ major currencies.”
In its New World Economy Report, published by the IMF, the report predicted that the dominance of the dollar in the international financial system will end by 2025, and it will be replaced by a tri-polar system consisting of currencies including the greenback, the euro and the Chinese yuan. IMF report stated that this would happen when the dollar loses its position as an undisputed global currency by that year.
Gercek said the dollar remained the world’s main reserve currency and that it would remain so for the foreseeable future. “This is based on structural reasons such as the size of the American economy, which is still the largest in the world, the depth and breadth of America’s financial markets, which is still unchallenged and its liquidity remains unsurpassed. More importantly America’s institutional framework and its robust strength are still superior, especially in the areas of governance and the rule of law, which are paramount if economic activity is to be created and sustained over the long term,” he said.
“US can sustain larger trade deficits than any other country as capital inflows are almost guaranteed,” Gercek said. “Reserve currencies come and go, but there is no obvious one to replace the dollar yet. This does not mean the dollar is on a constant depreciation path. Currencies are mostly part of the solution not the problem. And weak dollar is exactly what the doctor ordered for the US economy,” Gercek said.
With regards to America’s political standing, its dominance coincided with its emergence as the world’s sole and undisputed power with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. As such, and after the Bretton Woods system that came into existence in 1946, the dollar replaced the sterling pound as the world’s reserve currency. However, with the slow rise of other regional powers, notably China, India and Brazil, a multi-polar world order is likely to emerge over the course of the next few decades. With that rise and as a result of America’s persistent budget deficits, mounting public debt and balance of payment problems, coupled with political indecision to solve its chronic structural problems, the supremacy of the dollar will likely slide in tandem with its retreating political and financial dominance.
The American dollar is described as Triffin Paradox, which refers to the conflicts of interest that occurs as a result of short-term domestic and long-term international economic objectives, given its position as a national currency and the international reserve currency. It is used as an international source of liquidity; as such the United States needs to run trade deficits to provide liquidity to the rest of the world and this has helped global growth over the last 30 years. Global imbalances and low US savings were obvious side effects of this policy.
Gercek discarded the rumors that America is printing more money. He indicated that the US currency’s strong position comes from exchange of reserves in dollar between central banks and commercial banks. Thus, the American government is simply balancing its inflows and outflows.
He clarified that emerging markets cannot simply be bystanders to this process by hinting or engaging in a “currency war.” They were part of the problem during the buildup to the global imbalance. Now they need to be part of the solution and accept that the old model of mercantilist growth is no longer an option. Interconnectedness will make sure “one for all and all for one.” Failure to see this will have dire repercussions for all.

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The mataf, or the circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba.
JEDDAH: Crown Prince Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, on Tuesday called for the quick implementation of the mataf (the circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba) expansion project designed to accommodate 130,000 pilgrims at a time.
The crown prince made this comment while chairing a meeting of the Supreme Haj Committee at his office in Riyadh. The meeting discussed all aspects of the project, especially how to tackle a temporary reduction of the mataf’s capacity while the project is being implemented.
The project will increase the mataf’s capacity from 52,000 to 130,000 pilgrims when completed, said an official statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency. The work on the project has already started.
According to the plan, the mataf will be expanded by 20 meters into the Ottoman portico of the Grand Mosque at all levels of the building, including the terrace. In the ground floor of the expansion area, pillars will be removed from prayer areas.
The meeting also discussed a number of issues related to Haj and pilgrims and new development projects in Makkah and other holy sites. Prince Naif reiterated the government’s desire to expand Haj facilities year after year for the comfort of pilgrims.
Prince Naif later met with Mauritanian Interior Minister Mohamed Ould Beilill and discussed issues of mutual concern and major regional and global developments. After that Abalail signed a security pact with Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmed. The agreement aims to fight crimes such as terrorism, terror funding, organized crime, drugs and weapons trafficking, currency forgery, money laundering and information crimes, SPA said.

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SABIC posted another record profit in Q3 amounting to SR8.2 billion.
JEDDAH: The Saudi corporate sector is continuing to thrive due to the relative stability of the Kingdom, its strong fundamentals and higher oil prices despite the recent wave of global political and economic instability,
Aggregate net profits of the Saudi corporate sector reached SR73.4 billion by the end of first 9 months of 2011, up by 24.6 percent YoY.
Meanwhile, total net profitability for Saudi listed firms by the end of Q3, 2011 increased by 22.1 percent, reaching SR25.8, the Kuwait-based Global Investment House (Global) said in a new report received here on Monday.
The report covers the results of 136 companies that announced their financial results, and whose financial year end on Dec. 31.
Companies, which did not have a comparable period, were excluded from this analysis.
Of the 136 companies, the Global report said 72 companies managed to improve their bottom lines in the first nine months, including 7 companies that swung from losses in the first nine months of 2010 to gains by the end of first nine months this year. Meanwhile, 36 companies reported decreased profitably, and 28 companies reported loss.
Sector profitability
By sector, nine out of the 15 sectors of the market managed to enhance their bottom lines by the end of the first nine months, compared to the corresponding period of the previous year, while 6 sectors reported a decline in their net profit. As for the Saudi listed companies’ results by the end of Q3, 2011, 10 out the 15 sectors reported better results, compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.
Petrochemical sector
Net income of petrochemical industries sector grew by 55.3 percent by the end of the nine months of 2011, according to the Global report.
In terms of quarterly performance, the sector posted an increase in its net profit for Q3, 2011 by 66.5 percent compared to Q3, 2010.
Meanwhile, QoQ profitability marginally increased by 5.0 percent compared to Q2, 2011.
This was largely due to higher product prices, supported by elevated production, particularly from Yanbu National Petrochemical Company (YANSAB) and Saudi International Petrochemical Company (Sipchem).
Despite the weakening of the global economy in Q3, 2011, there appears to have been little impact on volumes sold.
Within the sector, Saudi Basic Industries Corp.’s (SABIC’s), the biggest company in terms of market capitalization in the Middle East, posted another record profit in Q3 amounting to SR8.2 billion (+53.7 percent), which was a natural result of the continued growth experienced over the last two quarters of the same year.
By the end of nine months, SABIC’s net profit stood at SR24 billion, up by 52 percent.
SABIC’s affiliate YANSAB posted a significant rise of 132.5 percent in net profit to SR827.9 million in Q3. The strong performance followed a strong performance in Q2 when the company’s profitability rose by 91.8 percent, the Global report said.
However, on a QoQ basis, net profit declined by 14.1 percent due to a decline in product prices compared to the previous quarter.
Saudi Arabian Fertilizer Company (SAFCO) registered a considerable growth in net income during Q3 (+100.1 percent), on the back of handsome increase in product prices.
Net income reported during nine months was SR2.8 billion compared to SR2.2 billion in the same period last year, an increase of 28.3 percent.
The most impressive result, however, was posted by Methanol Chemicals Company (Chemanol) which achieved net profit amounting to SR46.89 million for nine months compared to SR2.04 million in nine months of 2010, an increase of 2,198.5 percent.
As for the company’s performance during Q3, it posted SR26.7 million in net profit compared to a loss in the amount of SR15.6 million in Q3, 2010.
Banking sector
Most Saudi lenders posted higher earnings in Q3 due to lower provisions and higher income from lending activities.
The banking and financial services sector posted a 29.3 percent jump in Q3 net profit, with 10 out of the 11 listed banks posting higher net profit.
Similarly, nine-month net profit increased by 16.9 percent, reaching SR19.6 billion.
Al-Rajhi Bank reported very strong set of numbers with its Q3 profitability increasing by 18 percent.
The strong results have come on account of 48 percent and 14 percent jump in non-commission income, said the Global report.
Although, deposit growth had been stagnant, lending for the quarter has been quite strong with total financing recording a jump of 5.1 percent. As a result, total financing/total customer deposit ratio has improved to 80.7 percent as compared to 77 percent in Q2.
For the first nine months of the year, Al-Rajhi’s net profit stood at SR5.5 billion, up by 7.4 percent compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.
Riyad Bank’s net income posted an increase of 15.1 percent. For the third quarter, the bank’s net profit increased by 30 percent, as it stood at SR 611 million. The strong result was driven by a growth in non-commission income and a drop in provisioning this quarter compared to the high provisioning during Q3, 2010. While non-commission income has gone up by 16.2 percent to reach SR509 million, net special commission income remained almost unchanged at SR1.06 billion.
Bank Albilad recorded a significant increase in Q3 net income by 3,462.5 percent, up from SR2.4 million in Q3, 2010 to SR85.5 million in Q3, which coupled with improved H1, 2011 results, led to 9-month profitability increase of 153.5 percent to SR222.6 million.
Telecom sector
Aggregate net profit of the telecom sector declined by 9.3 percent by the end of nine months, as it declined from SR8.1 billion in same period of 2010 to SR7.3 billion in nine months of this year.
Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) net profit plunged 53 percent in Q3 to SR1.6 billion, as foreign exchange currency fluctuation loss of SR780 million and provision of SR134 million with regards to additional financial costs arising as a result of merging the two systems of Public Pension Fund and General Organization for Social Insurance. If you exclude these losses, the net profit comes to SR2.5 billion. The significant decline of profitability was also due to the one off gain of SR728 million registered in Q3, 2010 on account of sale of towers to AIRCEL in India.
On the other hand, revenue grew by 6 percent to SR14 billion.
The Global report also said that Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) Q3 net profit grew marginally by 7.6 percent to reach SR1.2 billion, due to lower sales of low-margin smart phones from the company’s own outlets. Sales revenue increased by 16.0 percent in Q3 which is lower than the sales growth of 25 percent in Q1, 2011 and 29.1 percent in Q2, 2011. The company reduced its sales of low margin smart-phones to enhance EBITDA margins, which increased to 39.0 percent in Q3 from 34 percent in Q2. For nine months, the company’s net profit increased by 23 percent, reaching SR3.4 billion.
Saudi Zain’s Q3 loss narrowed by 11 percent to SR484 million from SR544 million a year earlier as it added more subscribers. Loss in the first nine month period narrowed over 20 percent to SR1.5 billion from SR1.84 million in the same period last year.
Energy and utilities sector
Both utilities companies posted subdued results by the end of nine months, with the sector’s aggregate net profit marginally increasing from SR2.7 billion in nine months of 2010 to SR2.8 billion in nine months of 2011, up by 5.3 percent. In the meantime, the sector’s Q3 net profits retreated by 6.1 percent.
Saudi Electricity Company’s (SEC) Q3 fell by 6.1 percent at SR2.2 billion, due to higher costs of consumption and purchased energy. The company’s net profit increased by 5.1 percent to SR2.7 billion in nine months.
Meanwhile, National Gas and Industrialization Company’s Q3 stood at SR27 million (-0.07 percent), while the company’s net profit grew by 11.9 percent to SR72.3 million in nine months.

Cement sector

The cement sector continued to thrive in 2011 due to the thriving demand of cement in the Kingdom, according to the Global report.
Listed cement companies had good results by the end of nine months, with 8 out of the 9 listed companies enhancing their bottom lines, including the newly listed Jouf Cement Company, which managed to turn from a net loss of SR1.9 million in nine months of 2010 to profits of SR68.5 million in nine months of 2011.
Meanwhile, Arabian Cement Company witnessed a strong net profit growth of 28.4 percent to SR104.9 million in Q3, 2011.
The company cited increase in sales and production from its Rabigh plant as the major reason behind the surge in profitability on a YoY basis.
However, the company has incurred losses on its operation of the Qatranah cement plant in Jordan to the tune of JOD5.6 million since the start of the commercial operations which has held back the performance of the company to a certain extent. The company is facing high fuel costs and intense competition in Jordan. On a QoQ basis, net profit declined by 6.1 percent due to Ramadan and Eid falling in this quarter. Net profit in nine months increased by 36 percent to SR332.7 million.
In the meantime, Saudi Cement Company net profit increased by 39.2 percent YoY in Q3 to SR195.3 million.
The company has posted good results in the last three quarters due to higher than expected efficiency savings and cement dispatches.
The new production lines that came online in April 2009 had an apparent effect on cost of sales per ton which declined to SR101.1 in Q3 compared to SR116.9 in Q3, 2010. These efficiency gains have pushed up gross margins to 57.9 percent in Q3, 2011 compared to 50.1 percent in Q3, 2010. The company’s net profit stood at SR619.9 million in nine months, up by 22.2 percent YoY.
Real estate sector
The year 2011 has been a year of groundbreaking decisions for the Saudi real estate sector.
With the mortgage law approved, the new Ministry of Housing in place and SR250 billion allocated to build 500,000 new housing units; the government is determined to back the housing sector. Aggregate net profit of the Real estate development sector stood at SR1.2 billion, up by 30.7 percent YoY.
Within the sector, Dar Alarkan 3Q, 2011 net profit came in at SR227.5 million down by 21.4 percent YoY and 23.6 percent QoQ. Net profit for nine months stood at SR798.3 million, down by 29.1 percent YoY.
Revenues for nine months came in at SR2.5 billion down 22 percent from SR3.2 billion in the nine months of 2010 reflecting the decline in sales throughout all three quarters since the beginning of the year.
Emaar Economic City’s (EEC) net income came at SR80.2 million in nine months compared to a net loss of SR377.5 million in the comparable period.
For Q3, the company’s net profit stood at SR6.2 million, compared to a net loss of SR195.6 million in Q3, 2010. EEC’s revenues were boosted by land sales from the remaining Esmiralda plots. Financial charges are starting to weigh on EEC’s bottom line with net finance costs of SR19.2 million in Q3, 2011 compared to a net gain of SR390,000 in Q3, 2010. As of Q3, 2011, EEC had a cash and short term deposits balance of SR5 billion indicating that the money received from the Ministry of Finance loan has not yet been channeled through to contractors, which indicates that minimal construction progress has been achieved during the quarter.
Looking forward, the SR5 billion loan to revitalize the pace of construction in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) as of Q4, 2011 although EEC’s earning power, in the short term, will remain solely reliant on land sales along with very slim contributions from apartment sales and the industrial valley.

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Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah receives newly assigned Saudi ambassadors at Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Monday. (SPA)
RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah received eight new Saudi ambassadors at Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Monday and wished them the best of luck before they leave the Kingdom to take up their respective assignments.
“The eight new ambassadors are veterans with exceptional integrity and achievements,” said Alauddin A. Alaskary, deputy minister for protocol affairs.
Their oath-taking ceremony was attended by top Saudi officials, including Minister of Defense Prince Salman and Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, deputy minister of foreign affairs.
Veteran diplomat Saud Al-Sati has been named new ambassador to India while Fahed Al-Rasheed will head the Saudi mission in Kuala Lumpur.
Al-Askary said Mustafa Al-Mobarak has been named the new envoy to Indonesia and Mansour Al-Mazmoomi to Singapore. Saud Al-Dael has been named envoy to Niger, Hisham Al-Sweilem will be posted in Ghana, Hani Moumena in Tanzania and Zaher Al-Onaizi in Burkina Faso.
Speaking on the occasion, the newly-appointed ambassadors expressed their gratitude to the king for his confidence and trust in them.
Al-Sati will head the Saudi mission in New Delhi. Relations between the Kingdom and India have strengthened considerably in recent years with greater cooperation in regional affairs and an increase in bilateral trade.
Saudi Arabia is one of the largest suppliers of oil to India, which is one of the top seven trading partners and the fifth biggest investor in Saudi Arabia. Sati, who served in several missions including in the US, will be leaving for New Delhi shortly. He is credited with changing the dynamics of bilateral ties while he was posted in the US.
Al-Rasheed will travel to Malaysia shortly. Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have close ties on all fronts and are also prominent members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Additionally, there is a sizable population of Malaysian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.
Indonesia is another important country for the Kingdom, where a new envoy is being posted. Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations only last year.
Singapore enjoys warm and long-standing ties with countries in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia. Since 2004, when then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong initiated a series of official visits to the region, Singapore has significantly broadened and deepened its political and economic engagement of the Middle East.
As an indication of the growing ties shared between the Kingdom and Singapore, there has been an upsurge in high-level visits between both sides in recent years.

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Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah chairs a Cabinet meeting in Riyadh on Monday. (SPA)
JEDDAH: The Council of Ministers on Monday emphasized the Gulf Cooperation Council’s leading role in preserving the security and stability of the region over the past three decades while calling for greater GCC coordination to counter “dangerous” developments.
The Cabinet meeting, chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah at Yamamah Palace in Riyadh, made the statement while reviewing the resolutions taken by GCC defense ministers during a meeting in Abu Dhabi and a meeting of GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh last week.
The Abu Dhabi meeting had decided to strengthen joint GCC defense systems in the face of increasing threats to member countries. It also decided to set up a GCC marine security coordination center in Manama to confront challenges being faced by navigation in the Arabian Gulf, Oman Sea and Red Sea.
The Cabinet commended Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh for signing a Gulf initiative to end the country’s political crisis during a ceremony in Riyadh last week, while praising the roles played by King Abdullah and other GCC leaders to reach an agreement between the Yemeni government and opposition groups.
“Saudi Arabia hopes that the signing of the initiative would put an end to the conflict and help the Yemenis enjoy security and stability and realize their hopes and aspirations for a brighter future,” said a statement issued after the Cabinet meeting.
Culture and Information Minister Abdul Aziz Khoja said the Cabinet reorganized the powers of the Control & Investigation Board (CIB) and Bureau of Investigation & Prosecution (BIP) to avoid overlapping. It canceled Article 2 of the Royal Decree No. 51 dated 17/7/1402AH that had stated the CIB, in addition to its powers, will investigate bribery, forgery and other crimes mentioned in Royal Decree No. 43 dated 29/11/1377AH.
The Cabinet transferred to the BIP the powers of CIB and other monitoring agencies in investigation and public prosecution with regard to criminal cases. However, the CIB and other agencies will continue to investigate crimes until those powers are transferred to the BIP. The criminal investigation jobs at the CIB and other agencies will be transferred to the BIP. Transferred CIB staff should meet the BIP standards.
The Cabinet also decided to transfer financial monitoring activities of the CIB to the General Auditing Bureau. At the same time, the CIB will continue its administrative monitoring activities, administrative investigation and take up prosecution of administrative and financial violators. According to the new Cabinet decision, field auditing activities have been transferred from the Ministry of Civil Affairs to the CIB.
Khoja said the Cabinet agreed to increase the Kingdom’s contribution to the capital of the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC), an affiliate of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank, from 13,500 to 60,000 shares valued at 46.5 million Islamic dinars.
“Of these shares 13,500 will be the Kingdom’s contribution to 50,000 shares floated for subscription by the IDB member countries while the remaining 33,000 will be the Kingdom’s contribution to the additional shares allocated for subscription by member countries who wanted to have more shares in the ICIEC. The Cabinet authorized Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf to subscribe necessary shares to preserve the Kingdom’s position as the largest stakeholder in the ICIEC after IDB.
The Cabinet also endorsed the national transport strategy aimed at setting up an integrated and efficient transport system that would be provided with all required means to ensure the security and safety of the public, boost economic development and strengthen the Kingdom’s competitiveness. “The strategy calls for greater cooperation and coordination among related departments,” Khoja said.
The Cabinet also made the Ministry of Social Affairs a permanent member of the committee for combating money laundering.
Earlier, King Abdullah congratulated the Muslim Ummah on the advent of the Hijrah year 1433, and expressed hope the new year would bring greater progress and prosperity to the Arab and Islamic world and end violence and financial crises in many countries, reinforcing security and stability all over the world.
The Cabinet welcomed the speech made by Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa after receiving the final report from an independent committee that investigated recent incidents in the country. “We take this opportunity to commend the Bahraini king’s desire to reveal the facts with transparency and fairness, ensuring the rule of law and justice,” the statement added.

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By David Ignatius, Published: November 19
Over this year of Arab Spring revolt, Saudi Arabia has increasingly replaced the United States as the key status-quo power in the Middle East — a role that seems likely to expand even more in coming years as the Saudis boost their military and economic spending.

Saudis describe the kingdom’s growing role as a reaction, in part, to the diminished clout of the United States. They still regard the U.S.- Saudi relationship as valuable, but it’s no longer seen as a guarantor of their security. For that, the Saudis have decided they must rely more on themselves — and, down the road, on a wider set of friends that includes their military partner, Pakistan, and their largest oil customer, China.
For Saudi watchers, this change is striking. The kingdom’s old practice was to keep its head down, spread money to radical groups to try to buy peace, and rely on a U.S. military umbrella. Now, Riyadh is more open and vocal in pressing its interests — especially in challenging Iran.
The more-assertive Saudi role has been clear in its open support for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is Iran’s crucial Arab ally. The Saudis were decisive backers of last weekend’s Arab League decision to suspend Syria’s membership (though they also supported the organization’s waffling decision Wednesday to send another mediation team to Damascus).
Money is always the Saudis’ biggest resource, and they are planning to spend it more aggressively as a regional power broker — by roughly doubling their armed forces over the next 10 years and spending at least $15 billion annually to support countries weakened economically by this year’s turmoil.
The enormous military expansion was signaled this past week by Gen. Hussein al-Qubail, the chief of staff. Because of “surrounding circumstances,” he said, the Saudis would spend more to achieve “the highest degree of combat readiness.”
Overseeing the arms buildup will be a new defense minister, Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, described by Saudis as a strong manager during his many years as governor of Riyadh. This contrasts with what foreign analysts say was the loose discipline (and occasional corruption scandals) under his predecessor, Prince Sultan, who died in October after 48 years as defense minister.
Saudi sources provided an unofficial summary of the defense buildup. The army will add 125,000 to its estimated current force of 150,000; the national guard will grow by 125,000 from an estimated 100,000; the navy will spend more than $30 billion buying new ships and sea-skimming missiles; the air force will add 450 to 500 planes; and the Ministry of Interior is boosting its police and special forces by about 60,000. The Saudis are also developing their own version of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command.
The doubling of ground forces is partly a domestic employment project, but it’s also a signal of Saudi confidence.
The Saudi shopping list is a bonanza for U.S. and European arms merchants. That’s especially true of the air force procurement, with the Saudis planning to buy 72 “Eurofighters” from EADS and 84 new F-15s from Boeing. The rationale is containing Iran, whose nuclear ambitions the Saudis strongly oppose. But Riyadh has an instant deterrent ready, too, in the form of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal that the Saudis are widely believed to have helped finance.
Big weapons purchases have been a Saudi penchant for decades. More interesting, in some ways, is their quiet effort to provide support to friendly regimes to keep the region from blowing itself up in this period of instability. The Saudis have budgeted $4 billion this year to help Egypt, $1.4 billion for Jordan, and $500 million annually over the next decade for Bahrain and Oman. They will doubtless pump money, as well, to Syria, Yemen and Lebanon once the smoke clears in those volatile countries.
“In outlays, we’ve budgeted $15 billion a year just to keep the peace,” says one Saudi source, adding up the economic assistance to Arab neighbors. But that’s hardly a stretch for a country that, by year-end, will have about $650 billion in foreign reserves.
The Saudis speak more charitably of the United States than they did a few months ago, after reassuring visits by Vice President Biden and national security adviser Tom Donilon, and close military and intelligence cooperation continues. But President Obama is seen as a relatively weak leader who abandoned his own call for a Palestinian state under Israeli pressure. The United States isn’t exactly the god that failed, but its divine powers are certainly suspect in Riyadh.

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BERLIN: A major highlight of the Saudi-German Youth Forum, concluded here on Friday, was the opportunity for youths of the two countries to have an intimate and proper understanding about their cultures, which are instrumental in rendering outstanding contributions to the progress of humanity.
The forum was organized by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of the Interfaith Dialogue Initiative launched by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. The 13-day event underscored the harmony and proximity in the viewpoints of both Saudi Arabia and Germany on various fronts, thus contributing to further cementing bilateral relations between the two countries.
Several prominent figures representing Saudi Arabia and Germany attended the concluding session of the forum held at the Saudi Embassy in Berlin. They included Osama Shubokshi, Saudi ambassador to Germany; Prince Muhammad bin Saud bin Khaled, undersecretary for technical affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Yousuf bin Tarad Al-Saadoun, head of the Saudi delegation to the forum; and Stephen Bushfield, deputy president of the Unit for Dialogue with the Muslim World and Media Relations and Cultures in the Middle East. The dignitaries also included diplomatic corps representing various countries accredited to Germany as well as cultural figures and media persons.
Welcoming the gathering, Prince Muhammad bin Saud bin Khaled, who is also general supervisor of the forum, highlighted the significance of the Interfaith Dialogue Initiative launched by King Abdullah, especially in the wake of the technological advancement that brought peoples and cultures from various corners of the planet much closer than ever before.
In his speech, Stephen Bushfield underscored the significance of the forum in enabling the participants to have a proper understanding of each other’s ancient cultures as well as in further bolstering friendly relations between peoples of the two countries. He hoped that the German youth delegation would visit Saudi Arabia to attend a similar forum in the Kingdom next year.
Addressing the forum, Osama Shubokshi said that the activities of the forum that provided an opportunity for Saudi young men and women to have intimate interaction with their German counterparts showed that both countries had common thoughts and perceptions on several fronts.
“This enabled them to break the barriers of distance by crossing thousands of kilometers to have personal interaction with each other,” he said.
Referring to King Abdullah’s Interfaith Dialogue Initiative, which is a message of peace from the Muslim nation to the world, Shubokshi noted that the king had called for better understanding among followers of various religions and cultures.
As part of boosting the initiative and to highlight the fact that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, King Abdullah paid a visit to Rome to meet with Pope Benedict XVI. Shubokshi said the proposed visit of German youths to the Kingdom next year would help further promote friendship among the young population of both countries as well as to have a much closer understanding among them. He also thanked the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other institutes and organizations as well as the German officials to make the forum a great success. Yousuf bin Tarad Al-Saadoun also spoke on the occasion.
A bilateral message, presented by the officials of the forum, lauded the commendable role played by King Abdullah and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in promoting global peace as well as in achieving tremendous progress in various branches of science in a way benefiting both countries.
They also presented a series of recommendations and proposals aimed at creating a better environment for scientific research, especially in the fields of alternative energy and non-dependence on oil as the only source of energy. A similar message, focusing on a pollution-free environment, was presented by the representatives of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the forum.
A total of 22 young Saudi men and women participated in the forum that started on Nov. 13. Several officials representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy and the private sector also took part in the event.
Field visits to a number of German universities as well as scientific and cultural centers and government organizations in Berlin and Hamburg were also conducted on the sidelines of the forum. In addition, there were dialogue and debate sessions among Saudi and German youths focusing on renewal energy, environment and alternative energy. Several young Saudi delegates presented their opinions, viewpoints and proposals on a number of topics pertaining to the future of alternative and renewable energy, pollution-free environment in addition to the ways to further bolster bilateral relations between the two countries.
Speaking to the Saudi Press Agency, they expressed their happiness and pride to have a golden opportunity to represent Saudi Arabia at the forum as well as to portray the clear picture of the remarkable achievements made by Saudi women in various fields. Sarah Al-Salman, a business management student, noted that renewable energy was closely associated with the protection of environment and with the future of human beings. “This is an energy that is best suited with the requirements of life through exploitation of the non-oil natural resources,” she said while stressing the need for making aware of all members of the society about the significance of preserving renewable and alternative energy resources.
Meesa Al-Manie, also a business management student, highlighted the significance of voluntary work. She briefed the German side on her vision and experiment with regard to voluntary work. “The people of both Saudi Arabia and Germany share some points with regard to environment cultures. The German youth delegates showed their interests to listen to the initiatives being taken by King Abdullah for women empowerment, especially the recent decisions to allow them to contest municipal elections and nominate them to the Shoura Council,” she said.
On her part, Ayesha Bashaban, a student of health sciences who is well versed in German language, said that the forum gave an opportunity to present the true picture about Saudi Arabia and the broad principles of the religion of Islam, which stand for the progress of science and knowledge.
Noura bint Yousuf Mansuri, a student at the department of carbon for sustainable growth, said: “I briefed the German side on the salient features of the Kingdom’s energy vision and the serious steps taken to preserve its depleted natural resources. I also informed them about the Kingdom’s setting up of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy as well as its efforts to benefit from renewable energy technology from the developed countries, including Germany,” she said. Another Saudi girl student, Sarah Madani, highlighted the vast potential of her desert country for using solar energy as one of the best alternative for oil.

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Defense Minister Prince Salman meets with senior officers during a visit to the air force command in Riyadh on Saturday. (SPA)
JEDDAH: Defense Minister Prince Salman visited the strategic missile force’s command in Riyadh on Saturday. He was accompanied by Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan.
Maj. Gen. Jarallah Al-Alweet, commander of the missile force, briefed the defense minister of his force’s strategic mission.
“The strategic missile force plays a significant role in defending the Kingdom, its people and the holy places,” the commander said.
Prince Salman also visited the air force command in Riyadh where he was greeted by Prince Khaled, Chief of Staff Gen. Hussein Al-Qubail, and Gen. Abdul Aziz Al-Hussein, commander of the force.
Gen. Al-Hussein welcomed Prince Salman and his deputy and spoke about the history and progress of the air defense force. He thanked the defense minister for giving instructions to further develop the force.
Last week Prince Salman visited the Royal Air Force and commended its remarkable progress and combat readiness. He also visited the command of the Naval Forces and said it holds a leading position in the region.
“I am happy to visit the command of naval forces, which have achieved remarkable progress in terms of training and armament,” the minister wrote in the command’s visitors register.
He emphasized the navy’s role in defending the Kingdom’s coastal areas and resources. He described the naval forces as the third pillar of the country’s armed forces.

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JEDDAH: People of Jeddah breathed a sigh of relief on Saturday when Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal launched the much-awaited sewage project for the central and northern regions of the city.
The governor also highlighted the remarkable progress achieved by the city in recent years.
“Four years ago I told you that Jeddah is coming and today I am happy to tell you that it has started arriving,” the governor said while speaking to reporters after launching the SR7 billion initiative during a ceremony at Jeddah Hilton.
The launching ceremony was attended by Water and Electricity Minister Abdullah Al-Hussayen, Jeddah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Majed and National Water Company’s CEO Luay Al-Musallam.
Prince Khaled congratulated Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and the Saudi people on the advent of the new Hijrah year 1433AH and expressed hope it would bring greater progress and prosperity for Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Islamic world.
“This is one of the important projects for which citizens of this country have been waiting for long,” the governor said. “When I took over as governor of Makkah province, people from Jeddah told me to solve four main problems they were facing,” he said.
The first problem was a lack of adequate drinking water for residential districts in the city. Now people have enough water, he said. The second problem was the sewage lake, which the municipality dried as it had created a major environment problem.
The third problem was the dark smoke and bad smells coming from garbage dumping grounds that have now been solved. “We have now launched a major project to solve the fourth problem related to sewage,” he said.
He thanked the water minister for taking the initiative to solve all these major problems. “We have also implemented other projects not demanded by citizens but ordered by the king,” the governor said.
Prince Khaled asked citizens and residents to be patient with the inconvenience caused by the ongoing road projects. “These projects will change the face of Jeddah. So, be patient until they are completed,” he added. The governor said he would inspect on Wednesday the emergency projects implemented to prevent floods in the city. He said he was following up on projects that could not be completed for various reasons.
The new sewage drainage system launched by Prince Khaled aims to provide sewage connections to 8,000 households from Palestine Street to residential districts north of the city during 2012.
Al-Musallam said the first phase of the sewage project would cover houses in Faisaliya, Rabwa, Salama and Bawadi districts.
The number of sewage connections to be provided in 2013 will reach 52,000. “By the end of 2015, as many as 132,000 connections will be given and they will enter into service gradually,” Al-Musallam said.
Al-Hussayen disclosed plans to establish a water storage project in Jeddah with a capacity of 1 million cubic meters to meet the city’s future water requirements. The desalination plant in Jeddah will pump an extra 240,000 cubic meters of water and the Shoaiba plant will supply another 1 million to Jeddah by 2013, he said.
The minister estimated the total value of sewage projects in Jeddah at more than SR7 billion. “The National Water Company will bear the cost of providing sewage connections to households and house owners have to pay back the money through easy installments of SR100 per month over 36 months,” he said.

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An aerial view of the construction work under way in Jeddah. (AN photo)

Published: Nov 26, 2011 02:06 Updated: Nov 26, 2011 02:06

Prince Khaled Al-Faisal expresses satisfaction over completion of work in record time
JEDDAH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal on Friday announced the completion of 14 emergency projects to deal with rainwaters and flashfloods in Jeddah, including the construction of Um Al-Khair and Samir dams. He will inspect the dams on Saturday.
“With the completion of the two dams we can say that we have finished all the 14 emergency projects to tackle rainwaters and flashfloods in Jeddah,” said Prince Khaled while chairing a meeting of the executive committee on Jeddah floods.
“We have completed all these projects in a record time after we started work on them about three months ago,” the governor said. “All contractors have finished their works on time,” he said.
Prince Khaled said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Crown Prince Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, have been following these projects with utmost keenness.
Meanwhile, Prince Khaled will launch on Saturday the first phase of a sewage network project for the central northern region of the city at Jeddah Hilton.
The project aimed at providing sewage connections to households is being implemented by the National Water Company (NWC). It will be completed in 2015.
NWC CEO Luay Al-Musallam said the project includes construction of new sewage water purification plants and expansion of existing ones at a cost of SR680 million. “They will have a total capacity of 444,000 cubic meters of water daily,” he explained.
Speaking about the emergency projects, Prince Khaled said 12 of the 14 projects were aimed at tackling heavy rains and flashfloods, especially in areas that pose danger to the public. “These are not drastic solutions but will help reduce the impact,” the governor said. He also announced the completion of work on 16 support and emergency centers in various parts of the city.
“The temporary headquarters of the crisis center in the Makkah governorate office in Jeddah has been set in full gear to deal with any unforeseen situation.”
He thanked all those who worked hard to complete these vital projects on time, before the rains. He also thanked the municipality, the Civil Defense and the Finance Ministry for their efforts.
He said work on permanent solutions for Jeddah floods would start in the first quarter of next year. A team of experts working for the project has already completed necessary studies and designs.
The permanent solutions include construction of dams, rainwater drainage canals and development of the city’s underdeveloped districts and construction of modern transport systems.
Samir Al-Dhamin, director of emergency projects, said the 14 projects were completed as a result of round-the-clock work, covering a total of 2.4 million hours.
It also included 755,000 cubic meters of digging work on roads, installation of 18,000 meters of cement pipes, identification of 2,700 areas prone to rainwater flooding, and asphalting of 35,000 sq. meters of streets.
“We have also cleaned 78,000 sq. meters of pipes and 2,200 areas inundated by rainwater. We have also replaced 25 pumps to remove water from seven underpasses by stronger ones,” he said. In addition, there will be 16 mobile pumps for emergency.
During the function, Jeddah Mayor Hani Abu Ras made a presentation on his department’s plan to clean rainwater drainage systems and carry out maintenance for them. “We have set out a plan to deal with potentially dangerous areas during rains,” he told the governor, adding that a contractor has been assigned to check the drainage system every Thursday of the week.
In his presentation, Maj. Gen. Adel Zamzami, director general of Civil Defense in the Makkah province, said the emergency centers have been established to cover all the districts of the city during rains. He said some districts in areas that are prone to dangerous flooding have been provided with nine centers to deal with emergency situations.
Saad Al-Ahmary, undersecretary at the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment, disclosed the setting up of 14 weather stations in Jeddah and 25 in other parts of the region for monitoring weather conditions including rains and sandstorms.

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RIYADH: An Arabic book “La’ali Min-Alhubb” (Pearls of Love) on the late Crown Prince Sultan, deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation, has been compiled by the editorial department of Al-Jazirah Corporation for Press, Printing and Publishing.
Crown Prince Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, writes the preface to the book on the late crown prince’s biography. Printed on glossy paper in large format, the 733-page publication is a pictorial record of Prince Sultan’s achievements, his landmark trips and rare pictures of the humanitarian prince.
Divided into 12 sections and 51 chapters, “Pearls of Love” is the third in the series on Saudi royals published by Al-Jazirah, starting from King Fahd (“The Beloved of the People”) followed by King Abdullah (The King Who We Love).
The project, which was produced by a dedicated team of writers who worked for three years before his death, is one of Al-Jazirah’s series of golden books.
In the inside cover of the book, Prince Sultan wrote: “The thing I would like to emphasize is that I do not refuse a request on telephone or in writing from any man or woman with or without middleman because I consider myself a servant of this nation, under the guidance, care and passion of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.”
In his introduction, Crown Prince Naif observes: “It is not surprising that Al-Jazirah would choose Prince Sultan to be the third personality of Al-Jazirah’s series of golden books, because Prince Sultan had witnessed several eras and was a participant in the renaissance that happened during the time of King Abdul Aziz and the successive administrations of his brother kings for the entire 60 years.”
Crown Prince Naif adds that Prince Sultan’s life history followed the same path as that of his brothers, Fahd and Abdullah. It was full of struggle and filled with lessons needed by the people of this generation, so that they could learn how we were and where we are now.
Underlining the late prince’s qualities of head and heart, Prince Naif cites two of them, among others, which, he believes, are worth mentioning: His loyalty and dedication to the service of his king starting from King Abdul Aziz down to King Abdullah. The second aspect was his generosity and devotion to the cause of his people — big or small, whether it concerned males or females. To him, they were citizens’ problems and, therefore, his concern.
Besides, “Prince Sultan was my teacher and professor in every affairs of my life,” Prince Naif adds.
On his part, Khaled Almalik, Al-Jazirah’s editor in chief, points out that anyone who reads this book would chart the Kingdom’s progress over the past six decades. It is a chronicle of facts and figures, achievements covering the human and social aspects. It is a ready source of reference on any information on the late prince. He adds that Al-Jazirah would not have compiled this huge book illustrated with documented information had it not known that Prince Sultan had played a seminal role in the Kingdom’s history, including all the momentous events.
It is a ‘must read’ publication for all researchers, students and decision makers. “We all love Sultan’s smile, which never faded and his generosity, which never stopped,” the editor in chief said, adding: “We love him for his humanitarian stand and for his participation in social and humanitarian events.”
On the other side of the book’s cover, Prince Salman, who is now defense minister, dedicates the book with his heart “filled with feelings of love” for his brother and the late prince.
He concludes: “Oh my sir, I am not a poet nor writer, but I have flow of feelings, you loved and you were loved, you have given and you were given, you honored and you have been honored, you have cared for and you have been cared for, therefore, it is not surprising to be loved by your country’s sons. Their hope in you is always big and bigger.”

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RIYADH: Prince Faisal bin Salman, chairman of the executive committee of Ensan charitable society for the care of orphans, signed an agreement with Mundir Al-Khaledi Contracting Co. here recently to establish a tower in Zulfi.
The building will be constructed in two years at a cost of SR51 million.
In a statement on the occasion, Prince Faisal said the charity has embarked on a strategy to establish endowment buildings that would meet 50 percent of the organization’s annual expenditures.
“We have made a lot of progress in this project. We currently possess a number of endowment buildings including the first Ensan Tower located on King Fahd Road in Riyadh. We have rented this tower to Saudi Electricity Company,” the prince said.
Prince Sultan Endowment for the Care of Orphans in Al-Kharj is another building constructed by the charity, the chairman said, adding that it has been rented to Al-Kharj University.
“We are now in the process of completing two endowment projects in Al-Kharj and an Ensan village,” Prince Faisal said. “These solid assets will certainly strengthen the charity’s financial position,” he said and thanked philanthropists for their generous support to the organization and its endowment projects.
Prince Faisal said his organization welcomes the initiatives of philanthropists and businessmen in various cities to set up endowment towers for the benefit of orphans.
Esmat Eissa, a member of the resource development committee, said the new tower building in Zulfi would have seven floors. “We had conducted an economic feasibility study before awarding the contract,” he added.

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SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to sign a U.S.-backed power transfer deal mediated by Gulf Arab states to resolve the impoverished country’s crisis, Yemen’s state television reported.
Saleh has repeatedly promised to sign the Gulf-brokered agreement, only to change his mind every time. Under the deal, Saleh would step down and transfer power to the vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
The TV said Saleh arrived in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Wednesday morning but did not say when the deal would be signed. It said that along with Gulf Arab representatives who sponsored the agreement, European and American envoys would also attend the signing.
Saleh has clung to power despite an 8-month-old uprising, mass protests calling for his ouster and a June assassination attempt that left him badly wounded and forced him to travel to Saudi Arabia for more than three months of hospital treatment.
But things appeared to be shifting on Tuesday, when the U.N. secretary-general’s envoy to Yemen, Jamal bin Omar, said all parties had agreed on a plan that would have Saleh step down.
“All parties agreed today on the Gulf initiative and the implementation of its mechanism,” bin Omar said after meetings with Yemen’s vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in Sanaa.
Security in Yemen has unraveled amid the uprising against Saleh’s 30-year reign. The situation is particularly bad in the south, where al-Qaida militants — from what is perhaps the world’s most active branch of the terror network — have taken control of entire towns, using the turmoil to strengthen their position.
The unarmed protesters have held their ground with remarkable resilience, flocking to the streets of Sanaa and other Yemeni cities and towns to demand reforms from the autocratic government and braving a violent crackdown by government forces that has killed hundreds.
But their uprising, inspired by other Arab revolts in the region that saw longtime rulers of Egypt and Tunisa go, has at times been hijacked by Yemen’s two traditional powers — the tribes and the military — further deepening the country’s turmoil.
Breakaway military units and tribal fighters have been battling in Sanaa with troops loyal to Saleh, in fighting that has escalated in recent months.
An impoverished nation of some 25 million people, Yemen is of strategic value to the United States and its Gulf Arab allies, particularly Saudi Arabia. It sits close to the major Gulf oilfields and overlooks key shipping lanes in the Red and Arabian seas.

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Saudi security forces (File Photo)
A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced 17 activists and lawyers to long prison terms amid demonstrations calling for reform and the release of political prisoners in the kingdom, Press TV reports.
On Tuesday, the court handed prison sentences of up to 30 years for what it described as “sedition and other offenses.”
Most of the activists and lawyers sentenced to prison had been detained in 2007 after they met in the city of Jeddah to discuss political change in Saudi Arabia.
The court ruling on Tuesday comes as activists say Saudi security forces have killed at least three people in the city of Qatif in the Eastern Province over the past two days.
Last week, security forces in Qatif arrested two people who were accused of taking part in demonstrations demanding reform and the release of political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi authorities have prohibited public gatherings in the wake of anti-regime demonstrations in several cities over the past few weeks.
Human Rights Watch called on Saudi authorities in October to stop “arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters, relatives of wanted persons, and human rights activists” in the Eastern Province.
The arrests in Saudi Arabia have been carried out despite the fact that the kingdom is a party to the Arab Charter on Human Rights. Article 14 of the charter prohibits arbitrary detention.

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One of the renovated gates in Jeddah. (AN photo)
JEDDAH: As part of its efforts to enhance the enchanting look of the Bride of Red Sea, the Jeddah Municipality has completed renovation of 10 gateways in the city.
“They include Bab Al-Sharif gate, Bab Makkah gate, Makkah Road gate, Prince Fawaz Project gate, Dhahaban gate, Saudi Etisalat gate, Al-Naeem district gate and North Corniche Road in addition to the neighborhoods around the Al-Nakhlah Square and west of Makkah Road gate,” Bahjat Hamwa, director general of municipal gardens and tree-planting, said on Tuesday.
The municipality strives to repair and renovate all gates and entrances to Jeddah to match the city’s status as the major entry point of Haj and Umrah pilgrims, he added.
Many of the 624 sculptures that have been standing at different squares and other locations in the city are in ruins and some beyond repair.
An advisory committee for Jeddah beautification has conducted a number of workshops to discuss the participation of artists in Jeddah to give the city’s overpasses, underpasses and facades of buildings on major streets an aesthetic look in addition to install more of their sculptures at important locations.
According to some sources, preparations are underway to give a more attractive look to the beach.
The committee is also studying the naming and documentation of the sculptural structures besides writing on the structures their names and the name of the artist who designed and worked it. A sculpture will also carry the date of making with a brief description of its relevance in Arabic and English.
Shortage of qualified artists is a major problem faced by the municipality in making regular repair and maintenance works to the artistic structures, the source said.
They all need regular painting to maintain their unrefined bronze look besides keeping away all activities harmful to their life, the source said.
The municipality is also looking for permanent sponsors for the artistic works.

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Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal chairs a meeting of the ministerial committee for King Abdullah Project for the Development of Makkah and the Holy Sites at his office on Tuesday. (AN photo)
JEDDAH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal stressed the need to double the efforts to implement the King Abdullah Project for Makkah Construction and Holy Sites Development in a meeting on Tuesday.
“The project should be completed so that it can offer the highest level of services to pilgrims. The project should also preserve the indigenous and Islamic identity of the locations but in keeping with the a modern image,” Prince Khaled said while chairing the ministerial committee of the King Abdullah project in his office in Jeddah on Tuesday.
Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs Prince Mansour bin Miteb, Haj Minister Fouad Al-Farsy, Transport Minister Jabarah Al-Seraisry and Water and Electricity Minister Abdullah Al-Husayen attended the meeting.
“The project will help achieve a balance in the development of Makkah, the holy sites and the central zone around the Grand Mosque,” Prince Khaled said while briefing the ministers on the details of the project.
The integrated transport system with trams and other means of rapid transport, included in the project, will solve traffic problems experienced by Makkah residents and the pilgrims during peak seasons.
The prince said the first phase of the project would be completed in four years and the time schedule would be strictly adhered to. Its completion will also coincide with the expansion of the northern courtyard of the Grand Mosque, four circular roads and the road network linking the ring roads.
It will also coincide with the development of some unplanned neighborhoods through which the road network would pass.
The prince also announced the creation of an executive committee to follow up the implementation of the project with periodic meetings.
The prince also urged all related ministries to step up their efforts to complete the project and related activities so that best service could be offered to pilgrims.
The meeting was also briefed on the tasks of the Makkah and Holy Sites Development Authority. The authority’s responsibilities included drawing up of the policies for the development of Makkah and holy sites, conducting studies and planning for the development of Makkah and holy sites from urban, residential, economic, social, cultural, environmental and security angles.
The authority will also prepare a unified urban database for Makkah and holy sites. It will also participate in the execution of the infrastructure projects such as roads, streets and utilities in both the places and will attract investors. It will also coordinate with all related departments for the success of its tasks.
The authority will also approve any plans related to development or execution of projects in the area.

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Defense Minister Prince Salman, accompanied by other GCC ministers, arrives at the conference hall in Abu Dhabi for the GCC meeting on Tuesday. (SPA)
JEDDAH: Defense ministers of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council held a meeting in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday and decided to strengthen the group’s joint defense systems in the face of increasing threats to member countries.
The ministers discussed the challenges being faced by navigation in the Arabian Gulf, Oman Sea and Red Sea and what must be done to ensure marine security. They decided to set up a GCC marine security coordination center in Manama.
“They emphasized the need to build a joint defense system by integrating and developing defense systems of GCC armed forces,” said an official statement carried by the SPA. “This is the realistic option before the GCC to protect its security, stability, sovereignty and resources,” the statement added.
The six countries will continue their discussions on establishing a joint naval force, the ministers said. They are also thinking of acquiring joint early warning systems to confront ballistic missiles.
The meeting, attended by Defense Minister Prince Salman, reviewed military cooperation and joint defense and looked into the proposals made by the higher military committee and adopted necessary resolutions, the statement said.
The ministers were happy over the performance of Peninsula Shield Force, a joint force of GCC states, in protecting some of the vital installations in Bahrain and reiterated their solidarity with Manama to defend its independence and sovereignty.
The ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the UAE reviewed the achievements in terms of setting up joint military communication systems and emphasized the need to strengthen the efficiency of such systems.
Earlier, addressing the conference, Prince Salman noted Prince Sultan’s contributions to strengthen the Saudi and GCC forces. He invited the ministers to Saudi Arabia for the next meeting.

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by Seymour M. Hersh
The first question in last Saturday night’s Republican debate on foreign policy dealt with Iran, and a newly published report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The report, which raised renewed concern about the “possible existence of undeclared nuclear facilities and material in Iran,” struck a darker tone than previous assessments. But it was carefully hedged. On the debate platform, however, any ambiguity was lost. One of the moderators said that the I.A.E.A. report had provided “additional credible evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon” and asked what various candidates, upon winning the Presidency, would do to stop Iran. Herman Cain said he would assist those who are trying to overthrow the government. Newt Gingrich said he would coördinate with the Israeli government and maximize covert operations to block the Iranian weapons program. Mitt Romney called the state of Iran’s nuclear program Obama’s “greatest failing, from a foreign-policy standpoint” and added, “Look, one thing you can know … and that is if we reëlect Barack Obama Iran will have a nuclear weapon.” The Iranian bomb was a sure thing Saturday night.
I’ve been reporting on Iran and the bomb for The New Yorker for the past decade, with a focus on the repeated inability of the best and the brightest of the Joint Special Operations Command to find definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons production program in Iran. The goal of the high-risk American covert operations was to find something physical—a “smoking calutron,” as a knowledgeable official once told me—to show the world that Iran was working on warheads at an undisclosed site, to make the evidence public, and then to attack and destroy the site.
The Times reported, in its lead story the day after the report came out, that I.A.E.A. investigators “have amassed a trove of new evidence that, they say, makes a ‘credible’ case” that Iran may be carrying out nuclear-weapons activities. The newspaper quoted a Western diplomat as declaring that “the level of detail is unbelievable…. The report describes virtually all the steps to make a nuclear warhead and the progress Iran has achieved in each of those steps. It reads likes a menu.” The Times set the tone for much of the coverage. (A second Times story that day on the I.A.E.A. report noted, more cautiously, that “it is true that the basic allegations in the report are not substantially new, and have been discussed by experts for years.”)
But how definitive, or transformative, were the findings? The I.A.E.A. said it had continued in recent years “to receive, collect and evaluate information relevant to possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program” and, as a result, it has been able “to refine its analysis.” The net effect has been to create “more concern.” But Robert Kelley, a retired I.A.E.A. director and nuclear engineer who previously spent more than thirty years with the Department of Energy’s nuclear-weapons program, told me that he could find very little new information in the I.A.E.A. report. He noted that hundreds of pages of material appears to come from a single source: a laptop computer, allegedly supplied to the I.A.E.A. by a Western intelligence agency, whose provenance could not be established. Those materials, and others, “were old news,” Kelley said, and known to many journalists. “I wonder why this same stuff is now considered ‘new information’ by the same reporters.”
A nuanced assessment of the I.A.E.A. report was published by the Arms Control Association (A.C.A.), a nonprofit whose mission is to encourage public support for effective arms control. The A.C.A. noted that the I.A.E.A. did “reinforce what the nonproliferation community has recognized for some times: that Iran engaged in various nuclear weapons development activities until 2003, then stopped many of them, but continued others.” (The American intelligence community reached the same conclusion in a still classified 2007 estimate.) The I.A.E.A.’s report “suggests,” the A.C.A. paper said, that Iran “is working to shorten the timeframe to build the bomb once and if it makes that decision. But it remains apparent that a nuclear-armed Iran is still not imminent nor is it inevitable.” Greg Thielmann, a former State Department and Senate Intelligence Committee analyst who was one of the authors of the A.C.A. assessment, told me, “There is troubling evidence suggesting that studies are still going on, but there is nothing that indicates that Iran is really building a bomb.” He added, “Those who want to drum up support for a bombing attack on Iran sort of aggressively misrepresented the report.”
Joseph Cirincione, the president of the Ploughshare Fund, a disarmament group, who serves on Hillary Clinton’s International Security Advisory Board, said, “I was briefed on most of this stuff several years ago at the I.A.E.A. headquarters in Vienna. There’s little new in the report. Most of this information is well known to experts who follow the issue.” Cirincione noted that “post-2003, the report only cites computer modelling and a few other experiments.” (A senior I.A.E.A. official similarly told me, “I was underwhelmed by the information.”)
The report did note that its on-site camera inspection process of Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment facilities—mandated under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory—“continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material.” In other words, all of the low enriched uranium now known to be produced inside Iran is accounted for; if highly enriched uranium is being used for the manufacture of a bomb, it would have to have another, unknown source.
The shift in tone at the I.A.E.A. seems linked to a change at the top. The I.A.E.A.’s report had extra weight because the Agency has had a reputation for years as a reliable arbiter on Iran. Mohammed ElBaradei, who retired as the I.A.E.A.’s Director General two years ago, was viewed internationally, although not always in Washington, as an honest broker—a view that lead to the awarding of a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. ElBaradei’s replacement is Yukiya Amano of Japan. Late last year, a classified U.S. Embassy cable from Vienna, the site of the I.A.E.A. headquarters, described Amano as being “ready for prime time.” According to the cable, which was obtained by WikiLeaks, in a meeting in September, 2009, with Glyn Davies, the American permanent representative to the I.A.E.A., said, “Amano reminded Ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77 [the group of developing countries], which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.” The cable added that Amano’s “willingness to speak candidly with U.S. interlocutors on his strategy … bodes well for our future relationship.”
It is possible, of course, that Iran has simply circumvented the reconnaissance efforts of America and the I.A.E.A., perhaps even building Dick Cheney’s nightmare: a hidden underground nuclear-weapons fabrication facility. Iran’s track record with the I.A.E.A. has been far from good: its leadership began construction of its initial uranium facilities in the nineteen-eighties without informing the Agency, in violation of the nonproliferation treaty. Over the next decade and a half, under prodding from ElBaradei and the West, the Iranians began acknowledging their deceit and opened their enrichment facilities, and their records, to I.A.E.A. inspectors.
The new report, therefore, leaves us where we’ve been since 2002, when George Bush declared Iran to be a member of the Axis of Evil—with lots of belligerent talk but no definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons program.
Illustration by Guy Billout
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