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France’s President Emmanuel Macron has made a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia amid an escalating crisis between the kingdom and Lebanon.

The president’s trip comes days after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned while in Riyadh, saying he feared for his life.

Meanwhile, foes Saudi Arabia and Iran have accused each other of fuelling instability in Lebanon and the wider region.


Emmanuel Macron and Saudi officials also discussed the crisis in Yemen, where Riyadh is leading a war against rebels.

France has historical ties with Lebanon, as its former colonial power before it gained independence during World War Two.

President Macron was in the UAE on November 9 to open the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a spin-off of the famous Paris art museum.

Ahead of his two-hour visit to Riyadh, Emmanuel Macron said all Lebanese officials should live freely, “which means having a very demanding stance on those who could threaten any leader”.

Image source Wikimedia

Saudi Arabia Intercepts Yemen Ballistic Missile near Riyadh Airport

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Lebanon: PM Saad al-Hariri Resigns Fearing for His Life

No details of the alleged plot against Saad al-Hariri have been made public.

Uncertainty surrounds Saad al-Hariri’s circumstances, amid rumors he was being held in Riyadh.

President Macron said on November 9 he had had informal contact with Saad al-Hariri, without giving details, while the French foreign minister said France believed Saad al-Hariri was able to move freely.

On November 5, Saad al-Hariri said in a TV broadcast that he was resigning because of the unspecified threat to his life.

In the video statement, Saad al-Hariri also attacked Hezbollah, which is politically and militarily powerful in Lebanon, and Iran.

There are fears Lebanon could become embroiled in a wider regional confrontation between major Sunni power Saudi Arabia and Shia-dominated Iran.

President Macron is a keen supporter of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which both the Saudis and the Trump administration have heavily criticized.

Before going to Saudi Arabia, Emmanuel Macron said that he had heard “very harsh opinions” on Iran from Saudi Arabia, which did not match his own view.

“It is important to speak with everyone,” the president added.

However, an official communiqué from his office following the visit did not say Iran was among the matters discussed, Le Monde reported.

Tensions between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Lebanon have soared since Saad al-Hariri announced his resignation.

On November 9, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies told their citizens in Lebanon to leave the country immediately. The move came after Saudi Arabia accused Iran of “direct military aggression”, saying it supplied a missile which it says was fired by Hezbollah at Riyadh from Yemen on November 5.

Iran has dismissed Saudi Arabia’s allegations as “false and dangerous”.

According to new reports, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of an act of “direct military aggression” by supplying missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

This “may be considered an act of war”, Saudi Arabia state media quoted the crown prince as telling UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in a phone conversation.

On November 4, a ballistic missile was intercepted near Riyadh.

Iran has denied arming the Houthi movement, which is fighting a Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government.

On November 6, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Saudi Arabia’s “wars of aggression” and “regional bullying” were threatening the Middle East.

Image source Wikimedia

Saudi Arabia Intercepts Yemen Ballistic Missile near Riyadh Airport

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Prince Mansour bin Muqrin of Saudi Arabia Killed in Helicopter Crash

Houthi-aligned media reported that the rebels had fired a Burkan H2 ballistic missile at King Khaled International Airport, which is about 530 miles from the Yemeni border and 7 miles north-east of Riyadh, on November 4.

Saudi media reported that missile defenses intercepted the missile in flight, but that some missile fragments fell inside the airport area. No casualties were reported.

Human Rights Watch said the launch of an indiscriminate missile at a predominantly civilian airport was an apparent war crime.

On November 7, the official Saudi Press Agency (SAP) reported that in his telephone call with Prince Mohammed, Boris Johnson had “expressed his condemnation of launching a ballistic missile by Houthi coup militias” and affirmed “Britain’s stand with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in confronting security threats”.

“For his part, the crown prince stressed that the involvement of the Iranian regime in supplying its Houthi militias with missiles is considered a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime and may be considered an act of war against the kingdom,” it added.

On November 6, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN that Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, an Iranian proxy, was also involved.

“It was an Iranian missile launched by Hezbollah from territory occupied by the Houthis in Yemen,” he said.

Iran has rejected “unfounded accusations” by Saad al-Hariri, who resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister citing Tehran’s “grip” on his country and threats to his life.

It says the surprise resignation of Lebanese prime minister is part of a plot to stoke tensions in the region.

An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei accused the United States and Saudi Arabia of being behind the move.

Saad al-Hariri announced his resignation in a TV broadcast from Saudi Arabia, accusing Iran of sowing “fear and destruction” in several countries, including Lebanon.

He said he was stepping down because he feared for his life.

Saad al-Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.

Image source Wikimedia

Lebanon: PM Saad al-Hariri Resigns Fearing for His Life

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Correspondents say Saad al-Hariri’s sudden departure plunges Lebanon into a new political crisis and raises fears that it may be at the forefront of the regional rivalry between Shia power Iran and Sunni stronghold Saudi Arabia.

Following the statement on November 4, Iranian politicians lined up to denounce Saad al-Hariri’s assertions.

Hussein Sheikh al-Islam, adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Kahmenei, said: “Hariri’s resignation was done with planning by [President] Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.”

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi, quoted by the official Irna news agency, said Saad al-Hariri’s departure was aimed at creating tension in Lebanon and the region.

Bahram Qasemi said Saad al-Hariri had repeated “unrealistic and unfounded accusations” and had aligned himself with “those who want ill for the region”, singling out Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US.

Saad al-Hariri, whose family is close to Saudi Arabia, has been prime minister since December 2016, after previously holding the position between 2009 and 2011.

His father, Rafik al-Hariri was killed by a bomb in 2005 in an attack widely blamed on the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah, which wields considerable power in Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia has intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen, after a loud explosion was heard near Riyadh airport on November 4.

According to officials, quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency, the missile was destroyed over the capital and fragments landed in the airport area.

A TV channel linked to Houthi rebels in Yemen said the missile was fired at the King Khalid International Airport.

The Saudi civil aviation authority said that air traffic was not disrupted.

Saudi forces have reported shooting down Houthi missiles in the past, though none has come so close to a major population centre.

Turki al-Maliki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen, said: “The missile was launched indiscriminately to target the civilian and populated areas.

“Shattered fragments from the intercepted missile landed in an uninhabited area of the airport and there were no injuries.”

Witnesses reported seeing parts of the missile in the airport’s car park, Al-Arabiya reported.

Residents in the north of Riyadh said their windows were rattled by a loud blast that was followed by the roar of low-flying aircraft.

Image source Wikimedia

Saudi Arabia: 11 Princes, 4 Sitting Ministers and Dozens of Former Ministers Detained on Corruption

Lebanon: PM Saad al-Hariri Resigns Fearing for His Life

Oil prices surge after Saudi Arabia and allies launch air strikes on Houthi fighters in Yemen

The Houthi-run Saba News in Yemen said the missile had been a Burkan H2.

The rebel group is believed to have access to a stockpile of Scud ballistic missiles and home-grown variants. Saudi forces have previously brought them down with Patriot surface-to-air missiles bought from the US.

In May, a day before President Donald Trump was due to arrive in Riyadh for a visit, the Houthis fired a missile towards the city, but it was shot down 120 miles from the capital.

Yemen has been devastated by a war between forces loyal to the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement.

Saudi Arabia is leading a campaign to defeat the Houthis, and is the biggest power in an international air coalition that has bombed the rebel group since 2015.

On November 1, a suspected strike by the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 26 people at a hotel and market in northern Yemen, medics and local officials said.

The coalition, which rights groups say has bombed schools, hospitals, markets and residential areas, said it struck a “legitimate military target”.

Eleven Saudi princes, four sitting ministers and dozens of former ministers have been detained by Saudi Arabia’s new anticorruption body, local media reports say.

Those detained were not named and it is not clear what they are suspected of.

However, local broadcaster Al-Arabiya said fresh investigations had been launched into the 2009 Jeddah floods and the outbreak of the MERS virus which emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

The detentions came hours after the new anti-corruption committee was formed.

The anti-corruption committee is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and has the power to issue arrest warrants and travel bans, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Image source Wikimedia

King Salaman of Saudi Arabia Replaces Crown Prince

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Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir of Saudi Arabia Executed for Murder

Separately, the heads of the Saudi National Guard and the navy were replaced in a series of high-profile sackings.

According to SPA, King Salman had dismissed National Guard minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah and navy commander Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Sultan.

No official explanation was given for their removal.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently said the return of “moderate Islam” was key to his plans to modernize Saudi Arabia.

Addressing an economic conference in Riyadh, the crown prince vowed to “eradicate the remnants of extremism very soon”.

In 2016, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled a wide-ranging plan to bring social and economic change to Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon’s PM Saad al-Hariri has announced his resignation in a TV broadcast from Saudi Arabia.

Saad al-Hariri also said that he feared for his life, while fiercely criticizing Iran.

He accused Iran of sowing “fear and destruction” in several countries, including Lebanon.

Saad al-Hariri’s father, former PM Rafik al-Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.

The Hariri family is close to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional competitor.

Saad al- Hariri has been prime minister since December 2016, after previously holding the position between 2009 and 2011.

“We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik al-Hariri,” he said in the broadcast from Riyadh.

“I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life.”

Image source Wikimedia

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Lebanon restricts entry for Syrian refugees

Saad al-Hariri also attacked the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah, which wields considerable power in Lebanon.

Addressing “Iran and its followers”, the prime minister said Lebanon would “cut off the hands that wickedly extend into it”.

Iran said the resignation would create regional tensions and rejected Saad al-Hariri’s accusations as “unfounded”.

Saad al-Hariri has made several visits in the past few days to Saudi Arabia, whose leadership is strongly opposed to Iran.

His announcement came a day after a meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Kahmenei.

Taking up the prime minister’s office in 2016, Saad al- Hariri promised a “new era for Lebanon” after two years of political deadlock.

The coalition government Saad al-Hariri led brought together almost all of the main political parties in Lebanon, including Hezbollah.

His father, Rafik al-Hariri, was killed by a bomb in 2005 in an attack widely blamed on Hezbollah.

Saudi Arabia and three other Gulf countries have extended the deadline for Qatar to accept a list of demands by 48 hours, or face further sanctions.

The initial deadline for Qatar to agree to the group’s 13 demands, including the shutting down of the Al Jazeera news network, expired on July 2.

Qatar, which denies funding extremism, has given a formal response, but details have not been released.

The Gulf country has already called the demands an “affront to international law”.

The requirements include the closure of a Turkish military base in Qatar and the curbing of diplomatic relations with Iran.

Qatar Rejects List of Conditions for Lifting Sanctions

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani was in Kuwait on July 3 to hand over a formal response in the form of a letter from the emir of Qatar to the emir of Kuwait, the main mediator in the Gulf crisis.

Image source Wikimedia

In a statement released shortly beforehand, lawyers for Qatar denounced the demands and called for international condemnation.

They said the tactics were “reminiscent of the extreme and punitive conduct of <<bully>> states that have historically resulted in war.

“The world must unite immediately to halt the singling out of Qatar for unjustified collective punishment and humiliation and to preserve peace, security and prosperity in the region.”

Qatar Airways’ License Revoked by Saudi Arabia’s Aviation Authority

Qatar has been under unprecedented diplomatic and economic sanctions for weeks from Saudi Arabia and its allies, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.

The four Gulf countries, whose foreign ministers will meet on July 5 to discuss the situation, have accused Qatar of harboring Islamist groups that they consider terrorist organizations – including the Muslim Brotherhood – and giving them a platform on the Al Jazeera satellite channel, which is funded by the Qatari state. Doha denies the accusations.

Five Gulf Countries Cut Diplomatic Ties with Qatar

The imposed restrictions have caused turmoil in Qatar, an oil- and gas-rich nation dependent on imports to meet the basic needs of its population of 2.7 million. As a result, Iran and Turkey have been increasingly supplying it with food and other goods.

An unnamed official from one of the four countries told Reuters that Qatar was also being asked to sever links with so-called Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah.

The demands have not been officially unveiled. Their publication has increased the friction between the two sides.

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Oil price has surged after reports that OPEC members have agreed some details of a production cut.

Oil prices rose nearly 7% as energy ministers attended November 30 OPEC meeting in Vienna.

Ahead of the meeting Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih had said “there are good chances” a formal deal could be struck.

Two months ago, oil ministers had said full details of the agreement would be finalized at the meeting.

OPEC pledged to limit production by about 700,000 barrels a day, but said Iran would be allowed to increase production.

Oil prices rose then, but the absence of detail prompted some traders to have second thoughts about whether the cartel would actually take firm action.Oil prices fall below 28

Saudi Arabia has agreed to cut output by about 500,000 barrels per day at the meeting, Reuters reported.

That would take its output to 10.06 million barrels per day.

Reuters also reported that OPEC has agreed to suspend Indonesia’s membership to allow Iran to set new production levels at 3.797 million barrels per day.

Ahead of November 30meeting, Khalid Al-Falih said “there are good chances” that a detailed deal can be brokered, and that “the spirit is good”.

The Saudi energy minister said his country would have to “take a big cut and a big hit” to current production – and its 2017 forecast – if OPEC production were limited to 32.5 million barrels per day.

“So we will not do it unless we make sure that there is consensus,” Khalid Al-Falih added.

A production freeze for Iran at pre-sanctions levels would be “very considerate of other OPEC members when they’re having to cut,” he said.

“Iran has recovered to its pre-sanctions levels,” Khalid Al-Falih said.

Saudi Arabia has also been discussing a production cut with Russia, he added.

Brent crude rose 6.9% to $50.58 per barrel, while US crude also rose 6.7% to $48.25.

Traders said markets were jittery and prices could swing sharply in either direction depending on developments in Vienna.

A decision to cut has been hindered by a rivalry between Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s top producer, and Iran.

The Saudis have been hesitant to shoulder the lion’s share of a cut, while Iran has resisted reducing its own production, arguing it has yet to recover its output levels after years of sanctions.

Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir of Saudi Arabia has been executed for shooting dead a man during a brawl three years ago in the capital Riyadh, the interior ministry has said.

The prince was put to death in the capital. No details were given as to how he was executed, but most condemned people are beheaded.

Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir is the 134th person to be put to death this year, according to a list compiled by the AFP news agency.

It is rare for royal family members to be executed, correspondents say.

Image source Flickr

Image source Flickr

Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir had pleaded guilty to shooting his compatriot, the interior ministry statement said.

Announcing the execution, the ministry said it would assure everyone the government was “keen to preserve security and achieve justice”.

The victim’s family refused offers of “blood money” by which they would receive financial compensation in return for not demanding the death sentence, Al-Arabiya reported.

One of the most well-known cases of a Saudi royal being executed was that of Faisal bin Musaid al Saud, who assassinated his uncle, King Faisal, in 1975.

Most people executed in Saudi Arabia are convicted for murder and drug trafficking although nearly 50 people were put to death for “terrorism” on a single day in January including the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Saudi Arabia is concerned that 9/11 relatives will be able to sue the kingdom for damages, the foreign ministry says.

On September 28, the Congress voted for a law allowing families of nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks to sue.

In doing so they overrode a veto by President Barack Obama, who said it would set a “dangerous precedent”.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers that day were Saudi nationals, but Saudi Arabia has denied any role in the attacks.

In a statement, Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said: “The erosion of sovereign immunity will have a negative impact on all nations, including the United States.”

9/11 commemoration ceremony 2011: a minute of silence was held at 8:46 a.m. to mark the instant the first plane went into the North Tower

Their argument parallels the one made by Barack Obama.

The president said on CNN after the vote that the law set a “dangerous precedent” and could lead to the US being opened to “a situation where we’re suddenly exposed to liabilities for all the work that we’re doing all around the world and suddenly finding ourselves subject to private lawsuits”.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Republican Party in Congress have said they want to reconsider the law. The Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell admitted that lawmakers had not understood the possible consequences of the legislation.

“Everybody was aware of who the potential beneficiaries were but nobody really had focused on the downside in terms of our international relationships,” he said.

The White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was “a pretty classic case of rapid onset buyer’s remorse”.

On CNN, Barack Obama also suggested that that voting patterns in Congress were influenced by political concerns.

“If you’re perceived as voting against 9/11 families right before an election, not surprisingly, that’s a hard vote for people to take,” he said.

“But it would have been the right thing to do.”

Saudi Arabia, the US key ally in the Middle East, had lobbied furiously against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism (Jasta) legislation.

It has stopped short of specifying how it might retaliate but has called on Congress to reverse the decision.

Relatives of those killed in 9/11 have welcomed the bill’s passing.

“We rejoice in this triumph and look forward to our day in court and a time when we may finally get more answers regarding who was truly behind the attacks,” said Terry Strada, national chair of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism.

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Oil price has climbed by about 3% after Russia and Saudi Arabia reached an agreement to look for ways to stabilize the oil market.

The announcement was made by energy ministers Alexander Novak and Khalid al-Falih.

The price of Brent crude oil rose by $1.28 on the news to $48.11 a barrel.

A statement said the plan was to support the “stability of the oil market… ensuring a stable level of investment in the long term.”

The start of 2016 saw the price of oil fell to its lowest level in nearly 13 years due to a production glut and is still far below the $110 a barrel price recorded just two years ago.Oil prices fall below 28

Russian energy minister Alexander Novak said the agreement, which might include attempts to limit oil output, was a “historical moment” between members of OPEC, which is the traditional oil producers’ cartel, and non-members, of which Russia is one.

He said that Russia was willing to join an oil output “freeze”.

His Saudi counterpart Khalid al-Falih told Al Arabiya TV: “Freezing [production levels] is one of the preferred possibilities but it’s not necessary today.

“The market is getting better and we have noticed that prices reflect this [improvement].”

Strategies to keep prices high by limiting production are usually the preserve of OPEC and are often not successful.

However, Russia and Saudi Arabia are the world’s two largest oil producers.

Alexander Novak and Khalid al-Falih will meet again later this month and again in October and November.

The outline agreement, to set up a joint task force, was publicized at a news conference at the G20 summit taking place in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

The agreement to talk about a deal, despite the lack of detail, was welcomed by two other oil producers.

Kuwait’s acting oil minister Anas al-Saleh: “This dialogue confirms that the main oil producers are watching the oil market… to help achieve stability.”

UAE’s energy minister Suhail al-Mazroui tweeted: “UAE, as an active and responsible member of OPEC will always support any joint efforts which will benefit market stability.”

Three suicide attacks hit Saudi Arabia on July 4, including one near Islam’s second holiest site.

Four guards were killed near the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, while only the bombers died in Jeddah and Qatif.

No group has yet said it was behind the attacks, but suspicion has fallen on ISIS.

The Sunni Muslim jihadist group has called for the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy and its supporters have previously carried out bombings in the Gulf state, targeting the Shia minority community and security forces.

ISIS has also claimed a series of deadly attacks in the predominantly Muslim countries of Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq during the holy month of Ramadan.

In July 4 first bombing, two security officers were wounded when a man detonated an explosive vest he was wearing near the US consulate in the coastal city of Jeddah shortly after midnight.

An interior ministry spokesman identified the assailant as a 35-year-old Pakistani expat called Abdullah Qalzar Khan, who it said had worked as a private driver in Jeddah for 12 years.

The second attack took place near dusk outside a Shia mosque in the mainly Shia eastern city of Qatif.

A resident told the Reuters news agency that there were believed to be no casualties apart from the bomber, as worshippers had already left to break their daylight Ramadan fasts.

However, the interior ministry spokesman said the remains of three people had been found and were being identified, without providing any details.Medina suicide attacks July 2016

Not long afterwards, another bomber struck near the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, where thousands of worshippers had gathered for the Maghrib prayers.

On July 5, the Senior Council of Ulema issued a statement saying those behind the three attacks, whom it described as “renegades”, “have no respect for any sanctity and they have no religion or conscience”.

The head of the Shura Council, Saudi Arabia’s main advisory body, said the attack was “unprecedented”.

The Grand Sheikh of Cairo’s al-Azhar University, the leading religious institute in the Sunni Muslim world, also stressed “the sanctity of the houses of God, especially the Prophet’s Mosque”.

The foreign minister of Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival,tweeted: “There are no more red lines left for terrorists to cross. Sunnis, Shiites will both remain victims unless we stand united as one. #Medina.”

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Interior Minister, Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, meanwhile sought to reassure his fellow citizens, saying: “The security of the homeland is good, it is at its highest levels and thanks be to God it gets stronger every day.”

According to the official Saudi Press Agency, the prince made the statement while visiting the security officers wounded in the Jeddah bombing.

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A secret congressional report into the 9/11 attacks will clear Saudi Arabia of any responsibility if it will be published, CIA chief John Brennan has said.

Keeping 28 pages of the report secret has sparked speculation that the attack had received official Saudi support.

The documents are also central to a dispute over whether the families of 9/11 victims should be able to sue the Saudi government.

However, Saudi Arabia denies any involvement.

Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks were Saudi citizens.

America is remembering the victims of the 9-11 attacks in a series of memorials marking the 12th anniversary

America is remembering the victims of the 9-11 attacks in a series of memorials marking the 12th anniversary

Former senator Bob Graham, who headed the Senate intelligence committee that compiled the classified report in 2002, has said that Saudi officials did provide assistance to the 9/11 hijackers.

However, John Brennan said this was not the case.

In an interview with Saudi-owned Arabiya TV, he said: “So these 28 pages I believe are going to come out and I think it’s good that they come out. People shouldn’t take them as evidence of Saudi complicity in the attacks.”

John Brennan also described the 28-page section of the 2002 report as merely a “preliminary review”.

“The 9/11 commission looked very thoroughly at these allegations of Saudi involvement… their conclusion was that there was no evidence to indicate that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually had supported the 9/11 attacks,” he said.

Last month, a bill to allow Americans to sue Saudi Arabia over the attacks, in which nearly 3,000 people died, was passed by the Senate and now moves to the House of Representatives.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has warned that the move could cause his government to withdraw US investments.

Bob Graham has said that the White House would decide whether to release the classified pages this month.

A bridge linking Saudi Arabia to Egypt will be built over the Red Sea, King Salman has announced.

In a statement, King Salman of Saudi Arabia says the bridge would boost commerce between the two allies.

The royal made the announcement on April 8 during the second day of his visit to Cairo.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have supported Egypt with billions of dollars since President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi took power in 2013 following mass street protests.

Saudi Arabia regards Egypt as a crucial partner in efforts to build a bloc of friendly Sunni Muslim states as a bulwark against growing regional influence of Shia-led Iran.

King Salman’s visit comes amid recent strains in the relationship, with Abdul Fattah al-Sisi taking a less hard-line stance against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Riyadh seeking more support from Cairo for its war against rebels in Yemen.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said the bridge would be named after the Saudi king.

“I agreed with my brother his Excellency President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to build a bridge connecting the two countries” King Salman said.

“This historic step to connect the two continents, Africa and Asia, is a qualitative transformation that will increase trade between the two continents to unprecedented levels” he added.

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said it marked “a new chapter on the road of Arab joint action”.

A Red Sea bridge linking Saudi Arabia and Egypt has been proposed several times before but has failed to become a reality.

Previous estimates for the bridge project suggested a cost of around $3-4 billion, but no further information has yet been released for the latest plan.

King Salman is currently on a five-day visit to Egypt, where he is expected to announce more trade and co-operation agreements.

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Oil prices have plunged after Saudi Arabia said it would freeze production only if other major producers did the same.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s remarks are seen as a challenge to Iran.

It has vowed to increase oil production following the lifting of Western sanctions.

In the Bloomberg interview, Prince Mohammed bin Salman also spoke about his plan for a giant public investment fund.

Worth more than $2 trillion, it would be designed to reduce Saudi Arabia’s reliance on income from oil.Prince Mohammed bin Slaman oil prices comment

Part of the plan would be a sale of shares in the state-owned oil company Aramco, which could start as soon as next year, according to the interview.

Iran will not take part in a conference in Doha on April 17, where the freezing of oil output is due to be discussed.

“If all countries agree to freeze production, we will be among them,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg.

When asked whether Iran needed to be among those countries he said “without doubt”.

Oil prices, which had edged into positive territory, fell after Prince Mohammed’s comments.

Brent crude fell $1.63 cents, or 4%, to $38.70 a barrel. Prices rose 6% in the first three months of this year – the first quarterly increase since a 15% rally between April and June 2015.

A monthly survey by Reuters this week showed that oil output from the 13 OPEC members rose in March on higher production from Iran and near-record exports from southern Iraq.

Iraq reported OPEC’s biggest supply growth last year, producing more than 4 million barrels per day – making it the cartel’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia.

In February, Saudi Arabia and Russia said they would freeze oil output at January levels if other producers followed suit.

Oil prices have fallen from their recent peak of $116 in June 2014 because of oversupply and sluggish demand.

Saudi Arabia has decided to break off diplomatic ties with Iran, amid a row over the execution of Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in the Sunni Muslim kingdom, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir has announced.

Adel al-Jubeir was speaking after demonstrators had stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others were executed on January 2 after being convicted of terror-related offences.

Adel al-Jubeir said that all Iranian diplomats must leave Saudi Arabia within 48 hours.

Saudi Arabia was recalling its diplomats from Tehran, he said.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

Adel al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia would not let Iran undermine its security, accusing it of having “distributed weapons and planted terrorist cells in the region”.

“Iran’s history is full of negative interference and hostility in Arab issues, and it is always accompanied by destruction,” he told a news conference.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said: “We will continue to urge leaders across the region to take affirmative steps to calm tensions.”

“We believe that diplomatic engagement and direct conversations remain essential,” he said.

Earlier on January 3, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that Saudi Arabia would face “divine revenge” for the execution – an act which also angered Shia Muslims elsewhere in the Middle East.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr a “martyr” who had acted peacefully.

Protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran on January 2, setting fire to the building before being driven back by police. The Saudi foreign ministry said none of its diplomats had been harmed in the incident.

Iran is Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival – they back opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Relations between the countries have been strained over various issues in recent decades, including Iran’s nuclear program and deaths of Iranians at the Hajj pilgrimage in 1987 and again in 2015.

Most of the 47 people executed by Saudi Arabia were Sunnis convicted of involvement in al-Qaeda-linked terror attacks over the last decade.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was involved in anti-government protests that erupted in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the Arab Spring, up to his arrest in 2012.

The execution sparked new demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where Shia Muslims complain of marginalization, as well as in Iraq, Bahrain and several other countries.

The top Shia cleric in Iraq, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani denounced the execution as an “unjust aggression”.

The leader of Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, launched his sharpest attack yet on the Saudi ruling family on January 3, accusing them of seeking to ignite a Shia-Sunni civil war across the world.

Hassan Nasrallah said the blood of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr would “plague the Al Saud [family] until the Day of Resurrection”, prompting cries of “Death to the Al Saud!” among an audience watching his address.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned that Saudi Arabia will face “divine revenge” for its execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr as a “martyr” who acted peacefully.

Protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran on January 2, setting fire to the building before being driven back by police.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was one of 47 people executed for terrorism offences.

Ayatollah Khamenei said Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr had been executed for his opposition to Saudi Arabia’s Sunni rulers.Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemns Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr execution

The ayatollah tweeted: “This oppressed scholar had neither invited people to armed movement, nor was involved in covert plots.”

“The only act of #SheikhNimr was outspoken criticism,” he added, saying the “unfairly-spilled blood of oppressed martyr #SheikhNimr will affect rapidly & Divine revenge will seize Saudi politicians”.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr had been a figurehead in the anti-government protests that erupted in the wake of the Arab Spring up to his arrest in 2012.

Iran – Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival – has led condemnation among Shia communities over the execution.

The foreign ministry in Tehran said the Sunni kingdom would pay a high price for its action, and it summoned the Saudi charge d’affaires in Tehran in protest.

Some of the protesters at the Saudi embassy in Tehran hurled petrol bombs and rocks. Forty people have been arrested, officials said.

There have also been demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where Shia Muslims complain of marginalization, as well as in Iraq, Bahrain and several other countries.

For its part, Saudi Arabia complained to the Iranian envoy in Riyadh about what it called “blatant interference” in its internal affairs.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s execution has worsened long-running tensions between the two Middle Eastern nations, which support opposite sides in the Syrian and Yemen conflicts.

The US and UN have both called for restraint.

In a statement after the executions, State Department spokesman John Kirby appealed to Saudi Arabia’s government to respect and protect human rights, and to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings.

John Kirby also urged the Saudi government to permit peaceful expression of dissent and, along with other leaders in the region, to redouble efforts to reduce regional tensions.

Most of the 47 executed by Saudi Arabia were Sunnis convicted of involvement in al-Qaeda-linked terror attacks last decade.

Saudi Arabia carried out more than 150 executions in 2015, the highest figure recorded by human rights groups for 20 years.

The execution of Saudi Arabia’s prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr has sparked anger and protests in Shia communities across the region.

Shia-led Iran, Sunni-led Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival, has led the official condemnation of the execution.

Protests have taken place in Saudi Arabia’s Shia-majority Eastern Province, in Bahrain and several other countries.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was a vocal supporter of mass protests in the province in 2011.

He was a prominent, outspoken cleric who articulated the feelings of those in Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority who feel marginalized and discriminated against.Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr execution protests

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was among 47 people put to death on January 2 after being convicted of terrorism offences.

In the early hours of January 3, unconfirmed reports from Tehran said that the Saudi embassy in the Iranian capital had come under attack from protesters.

Iranian officials have been strident in their condemnation of the execution. The foreign ministry said the Sunni kingdom would pay a high price for its action, and it has summoned the Saudi charge d’affaires in Tehran in protest.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps said a “harsh revenge” would be exacted for the execution, Iranian news agencies report.

Saudi Arabia in turn summoned the Iranian envoy “and handed him a strong-worded protest note on the aggressive Iranian statements”, a foreign ministry statement said.

The website of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei posted a picture suggesting the execution was comparable to the actions of ISIS.

As the Shia power in the region, Iran takes huge interest in the affairs of Shia minorities in the Middle East.

However, one of the principal concerns of the Saudis is what they see as the growing influence of Iran in places like Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

At least one protest march was held in Qatif, in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, defying a ban on public protests.

Protesters shouted the slogans “The people want the fall of the regime”, and “Down with the al-Saud family”, reminiscent of the 2011 protests in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr ‘s arrest in 2012, during which he was shot, triggered days of protests in Eastern Province in which three people were killed.

January 2 executions were carried out simultaneously in 12 locations across Saudi Arabia. Of the 47 executed, one was a Chadian national while another was Egyptian. The rest were Saudis.

The international rights group Amnesty International said the 47 executions demonstrated the Saudi authorities’ “utter disregard for human rights and life” and called Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s trial “political and grossly unfair”.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr ‘s family said he had been found guilty, among other charges, of seeking “foreign meddling” in the kingdom but his supporters say he advocated only peaceful demonstrations and eschewed all violent opposition to the government.

Saudi authorities deny discriminating against Shia Muslims and blame Iran for stirring up discontent.

Saudi Arabia carried out more than 150 executions in 2015, the highest figure recorded by human rights groups for 20 years.

Saudi Arabia’s prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr has been executed, the interior ministry said.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was among 47 put to death after being convicted of terrorism offences, it said in a statement.

He was a vocal supporter of the mass anti-government protests that erupted in Eastern Province in 2011, where a Shia majority has long complained of marginalization.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s arrest the following year triggered days of unrest.

His death sentence was confirmed in October 2014.Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr executed in Saudi Arabia

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s family said he was found guilty of seeking “foreign meddling” in the kingdom, “disobeying” its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces.

Shia-led Iran – the main regional rival of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia – said Riyadh will pay a “high price” for executing Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Those also put to death include Sunnis convicted of involvement in al-Qaeda-linked terror attacks in 2003, reports said.

Of the 47 executed, one was a Chadian national while another was Egyptian. The rest are Saudis.

Protests broke out in early 2011 in the oil-rich Eastern Province in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr ‘s supporters say he supported only peaceful demonstrations and eschewed all violent opposition to the government.

He had been a persistent critic of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni royal family.

His brother, Mohammed al-Nimr, said he hoped any reaction to the execution would be peaceful.

A lawmaker in Iraq’s governing Shia coalition said the death aimed at “provoking sectarian fighting”, while Lebanon’s Shia council called it a “grave mistake”, Reuters reported.

Saudi authorities deny discriminating against Shia and blame Iran for stirring up discontent.

Saudi Arabia carried out more than 150 executions in 2015, the highest figure recorded by human rights groups for 20 years.

At least 5 people have been killed and nine wounded in an attack on a Shia gathering hall in Saihat, eastern Saudi Arabia, the interior ministry says.

The killings, in Saihat in Eastern Province on October 16, come two days after the start of Ashura commemorations, a holy occasion for Shia Muslims.

A group claiming links to Islamic State (ISIS) said it carried out the attack.

The Saudi Arabian interior ministry said a gunman opened fire at random before police intervened and shot the attacker dead.

Later, a group calling itself Islamic State-Bahrain State said that one of its “soldiers” had attacked “a Shia infidel temple” with an automatic weapon.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

The group warned that “infidels will not be safe in the island of Mohammed”.

Correspondents say the name of the group appears to be a reference to the historic area of Bahrain, which once encompassed parts of what is now Saudi Arabia.

Other, smaller attacks against the Shia community in the east of Saudi Arabia were also reported on Friday evening.

The minority Shia community in Saudi Arabia is increasingly being targeted. Most live in the oil-rich east, and many complain of discrimination.

In May, ISIS said it had carried out a deadly bomb attack outside a Shia mosque in the city of Damman.

A week before, more than 20 people were killed in the village of al-Qadeeh when an ISIS suicide bomber struck during Friday prayers at a Shia mosque.

That attack was the first to be claimed by a Saudi branch of ISIS.

Hardline Sunnis regard Shia Muslims as heretics.

Saudi Arabia, which is part of a US-led coalition against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, has previously been threatened by ISIS.

The Saudis are also leading a coalition of Arab states in an air campaign against Shia rebels in Yemen.

In the Ashura commemorations, Shias mourn the death of Hussein, a venerated grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

Saudi Arabia government has decided to cut spending and delay some state projects after the recent decline in the price of oil, Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf has announced.

Talking to broadcaster CNBC Arabia, Ibrahim al-Assaf said Saudi Arabia was in a good position to manage low oil prices.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporting country, has maintained its production levels despite a collapse in the price of oil.

Oil is trading at less than $50 per barrel, half the price of a year ago.

“We have built reserves, cut public debt to near-zero levels and we are now working on cutting unnecessary expenses while focusing on main development projects and on building human resources in the kingdom,” Ibrahim al-Assaf said in the interview.Saudi Arabia economy 2015

Some areas of the economy will still receive investment, the finance minister said, as Saudi Arabia tries to improve industries outside energy.

“Projects in sectors such as education, health and infrastructure are not only important for the private sector but also for the long-term growth of the Saudi economy,” he said.

Ibrahim al-Assaf did not give details of where cuts would happen.

It may issue bonds, or Islamic bonds known as sukuk to finance some spending, Ibrahim al-Assaf said.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has more than $600 billion in reserves it can draw upon should expenditure outstrip income from oil exports.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, a Self-proclaimed “Warren Buffett of Arabia” was born in 1955. He is the nephew of King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

A business magnate and investor, Prince Alwaleed studied at Menlo College and Syracuse University in the US.

He is the founder of Kingdom Holding Company, a Riyadh-based publicly traded conglomerate.

His first contract was to advise a Korean company building an officers’ club at a Riyadh military academy. Later chose to invest the profits in local real estate.

Prince Alwaleed invested $590 million in struggling Citibank (now Citigroup) in 1991; stake is now worth billions.

He has stakes in Disney, 21st Century Fox, News Corp, Apple, GM, Twitter, and a string of hotel chains and luxury hotels, including New York’s Plaza Hotel and the George V in Paris.Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud

Considered Westernized and progressive on most issues, Prince Alwaleed champions women’s rights as most of his staff are women. He has financed the training of Hanadi Zakaria al-Hindi to become the first Saudi woman commercial airline pilot and has stated on her graduation that he is “in full support of Saudi ladies working in all fields”.

He owns a 371-room, 42,700 sq m (460,000 sq ft) palace in Riyadh, a Boeing 747-400 and an A380, and an 85m super yacht.

Prince Alwaleed established Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundations across world to offer valuable humanitarian, educational and social assistance.

The first wife of Prince Alwaleed was Dalal bint Saud, a daughter of King Saud. They have two children: Reem and Khalid. They later divorced. His second wife was a young woman Ameera al-Taweel, but later divorced.

In an interview recently, Prince Alwaleed had said: “Yes, I announce it through Okaz/Saudi Gazette for the first time. I have officially separated from Princess Ameera Al-Taweel, but she remains a person that I have all respect for.”

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia has announced he will donate his $32 billion personal fortune to philantropy.

The 60-year-old nephew of King Salman is one of the world’s richest people.

Prince Alwaleed said he had been inspired by the Gates Foundation, set up by Bill and Melinda Gates in 1997.

The money would be used to “foster cultural understanding”, “empower women”, and “provide vital disaster relief”, among other things, he said.

Bill Gates praised the decision, calling it an “inspiration to all of us working in philanthropy around the world”.Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia donates personal wealth

Prince Alwaleed is at number 34 on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people.

The money will go to the prince’s charitable organization, Alwaleed Philanthropies, to which he has already donated $3.5 billion.

Prince Alwaleed, who does not hold an official government position, is chairman of investment firm Kingdom Holding Company.

The company owns stakes in hotels The Four Seasons, Fairmont and Raffles, as well as News Corp, Citigroup, Twitter and Apple.

“This is very much separate from my ownership in Kingdom Holding,” he said at the announcement.

“Philanthropy is a personal responsibility, which I embarked upon more than three decades ago and is an intrinsic part of my Islamic faith,” he added in a statement.

Prince Alwaleed said he hoped the gift would “help build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief and create a more tolerant and accepting world”.

His announcement comes during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims are encouraged to give charity and help the needy.

Prince Alwaleed said the donation would take place over several years and would be overseen by a board of trustees, which he will head.

Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has left his refuge in Aden under Saudi protection and arrived in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, officials say, as a Saudi-led coalition continues to launch air strikes against Shia Houthi rebels.

It is the first confirmation of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s whereabouts since March 25, when he fled rebel forces in the city of Aden.

The officials say he will go to Egypt for an Arab league summit on March 28.

The Saudi authorities began air strikes in Yemen on Wednesday night, a step Iran called “dangerous”.

During the second night of raids warplanes again targeted rebel positions in Yemen’s capital Sanaa and an air base near the southern port city of Aden.

Reports say there were civilian casualties.

Clashes were also reported in Aden between troops loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and Houthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia says it is “defending the legitimate government” of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi gets Saudi refuge

Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi took refuge in Aden last month after fleeing Sanaa, where he had been under house arrest since the Houthis took full control of the capital in January.

On March 27, a Saudi official said he had travelled to Riyadh, but would attend the two-day Arab summit in Egypt as the “legitimate” Yemeni president.

The Saudi ambassador to the US, Adel al-Jubair, said the first wave of airstrikes over targets in Yemen “went extremely well and with no collateral damage”.

He said this was “just the beginning of the campaign” which would carry on until “wisdom prevails” among the Houthi rebels.

Sources say the kingdom would consider sending troops to protect the government if it were to re-assemble in Aden in the future.

Reports said Saudi Arabia was using 100 warplanes in the operation, and its allies would contribute dozens more.

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported that the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan were sending aircraft, while Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Pakistan were ready to take part in any ground offensive targeting the Houthis.

The US said it was providing “logistical and intelligence support”.

However, a Houthi official warned the coalition that it risked provoking a wider war.

Shia power Iran, which Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia accuses of backing the rebels, also demanded an immediate halt to the strikes, which it said violated Yemen’s sovereignty.

Turkey has accused Iran of trying to dominate the region.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he supported the operation against the Houthis, adding Iran’s stance had begun “annoying us, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries”.

“This is really not tolerable and Iran has to see this,” he said.

A conflict that pulls in regional powers could disrupt global oil supplies, and the price of Brent crude rose almost 6% after the strikes began.

Media reports said at least 13 civilians were killed in Sanaa during the first day of the air strikes, and 18 people were killed in clashes between rebel fighters and soldiers and militiamen loyal to Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in southern Yemen.

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Oil prices rose by almost 6% after Saudi Arabia and its allies launched air strikes on Houthi rebel targets in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest crude exporter.

The move has raised concerns that the conflict could spread in the oil-rich Middle East and possibly disrupt supplies from the region.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures, the US benchmark, rallied to about $51 a barrel before falling back.

Brent crude climbed to $59.71 a barrel, but has since dipped to $56.50.

Pressure on the oil price eased slightly as it became clear there was no immediate threat to Middle East oil shipments. However, fears remain that Iran could be drawn into the conflict.Oil prices surge after Saudi Arabia and allies launch air strikes on Houthi fighters in Yemen

Yemen is located along an important international shipping route for global energy producers. But the country is sliding towards civil war.

Houthi rebels receiving support from Iran have marched on the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, where Yemen’s President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi took refuge after he was forced him to flee the capital, Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia, supported by regional allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait, launched airstrikes on Thursday aimed at halting the rebel advance.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are both members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the group that produces about 40% of the world’s oil. Oil exports to Europe pass through the narrow Red Sea strait between the port of Aden and Djibouti.

However, the current glut in global oil stocks, built up in part thanks to US shale production and plentiful output from Russia and other producers, means there is unlikely to be an acute crisis in supply.

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