Archive for April 16, 2014


German carmaker Daimler and engine manufacturers Deutz and MTU are set to open production facilities in Algeria, Ansamed reported on Wednesday (October 5th). The car companies signed partnership agreements with Algerian state enterprises for the new plants. The manufacturers will launch a utility-vehicle factory in Tiaret and an engine production plant in Oued Hamimime.

Source: Magharebia.


Friday, 14 March 2014

The permanent representative of Kuwait to the United Nations, Mansour Al-Otaibi, has revealed that the Arab Group is calling for securing permanent representation in the United Nations Security Council.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Al-Otaibi said during the intergovernmental negotiations on Thursday night about Security Council reforms that the multiplicity of Arab issues considered by the Security Council reflects the importance of having permanent Arab representation to ensure the delivery of Arab views during the Security Council’s deliberations on a continuous basis, so as to enhance its working methods.

Al-Otaibi pointed out that the Security Council aims to secure regional representation for all geographical groups, and that the Arab Group represents nearly 350 million people and has a membership of 22 countries, which is equivalent to 12 per cent of the United Nations general membership.

The Kuwaiti official also stressed that the Arab Group is keen to contribute actively in the Security Council’s discussions in order to reach solutions that enhance the Security Council’s democratic transparency and its working methods.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


April 11, 2014

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — While Saudi Arabia’s royals work out the succession of the throne behind closed doors, a few voices are raising the most sensitive matter of all in the kingdom, questioning the ruling Al Saud family’s claim to absolute power and its unchecked rights to the country’s oil wealth.

At least 10 Saudis in the past weeks have posted video statements on YouTube sharply criticizing the royal family and demanding change. At least three of those who appeared in videos have since been arrested, along with seven others connected to the videos, security officials told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

It is impossible to know how widespread the sentiments expressed in the videos are among the Saudi public. But the flurry of postings by Saudis is almost unheard-of and startling, given that public criticism of the king is strictly prohibited. It underlines the challenge that Saudi Arabia’s rulers have themselves recognized — that they must address the growing needs of the country’s youth, along with demands for transparency, reform and greater public participation in government.

At the same time, the royal family is facing an equally critical question: How to pass the throne to the next generation of Al Saud. Since Abdulaziz Al Saud founded the kingdom in the 1930s, the throne has been passed down among his sons, of whom he had several dozen by multiple wives. The succession from brother to brother has been relatively smooth for decades. But the time is approaching when the family must decide which brother’s son will get the throne next, potentially putting the monarchy into one particular branch at the expense of the others.

King Abdullah, on the throne for nearly a decade, is almost 90 and recently appeared in public with an oxygen tube. His half-brother Prince Salman, in his late 70s, is the crown prince, the designated successor. Abdullah has already outlived two other half-brothers who held the crown prince post.

Two weeks ago, the kingdom took the unusual step of officially declaring the next in line after Salman, naming Prince Muqrin, who at 68 is the youngest of Abdulaziz’s sons. Muqrin, a close aide of Abdullah, was chosen as a transitional figure toward the eventual handing of the torch to the next generation, said Joseph Kechichian, author of several books on the kingdom, including “Succession in Saudi Arabia.”

That handover is potentially divisive given the stakes. Analysts say there are more than a dozen princes among Abdulaziz’s grandsons from the various branches who could qualify for the throne after Muqrin.

The next monarch will inherit a country where half of the population of 20 million people is under the age of 25, in need of jobs, housing and education. The world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia is fabulously wealthy, but there are deep disparities in wealth and unemployment is growing among the young. The population is expected to mushroom to 45 million people by 2050.

Royals are showing that they are aware of the challenge. This week, Muqrin attended a conference unveiling a state-backed report on the minimum income families need to earn to cover their basic needs. At the conference, he criticized the country’s banks for making giant earnings while doing little to help society.

“They’re like a saw, they cut on the way in and cut on the way out,” he said. “Their contribution is small in comparison to how much they benefit from the citizens and state.” Last month, the governor of Mecca, Prince Mishaal, one of King Abdullah’s sons, said in an economic forum that there must be greater youth participation in planning and development.

The string of videos emerged on YouTube just after Muqrin’s appointment was announced. In each, a person talks to a camera, some speaking before a blank background, others in non-descript rooms. In most, the speaker holds up his or her national identity card with the speaker’s name and other information, a bold act of defiance to show they are not seeking anonymity. Two of the videos are by women, all wearing all-enveloping black robes and veils over their faces. Most of the speakers are in their 20s or 30s, though some are as old as their 50s. They are from different provinces of Saudi Arabia.

The first video to appear, by a young man who identified himself as Abdulaziz al-Doussari, appears to have inspired the others. In his 30-second video, he says he makes the equivalent of $500 a month — though he doesn’t specify his job — and says he’s fed up with being unable to afford a car, a home or marriage.

“Brother, give us some of the oil wealth you and your sons play with,” he blurts out, addressing the king. “Here, here’s my name,” he adds, holding his ID card to the camera. “Give us some of what’s rightfully ours.” The video has been viewed more than 1.8 million times.

Al-Dossari is among those subsequently arrested, the security officials said. In the past, public voices critical of Al Saud rule have been Islamic extremists — al-Qaida, for example, calls for the monarchy’s toppling — or minority Saudi Shiites protesting for equal treatment. The security officials, however, gave no indication they believed either group was behind the videos. Instead, they accused regional rival Iran but gave no further details.

The speakers in the videos don’t express allegiance to any political movement. Some accuse the royal family of corruption, others demand an accounting of its wealth and how much it receives from state coffers. Some do not refer to the kingdom as Saudi Arabia — named after the Al Saud. Instead, they call it the “land of the two holy mosques,” referring to the Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina and the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

In his video, Majed el-Asmiri calls for judicial independence, freedom of speech and the dissolution of the intelligence body Prince Muqrin once headed. “It is obvious … that the people of the land of the two holy mosques suffer in every way with regards to decisions about public finances and property,” he said.

Average Saudis have limited voice in governance. Most senior positions go to the thousands of members of the Al Saud family. A royally appointed Shura Council is the closest thing to a parliament, drawing members from the main tribes and other sectors of society, but it only can advise the king and government.

The ultimate question of who is king lies solely in the royal family’s hands. Any internal disputes over succession are kept strictly private, and royals have always rallied almost unanimously over the final choice, conscious that unity is in their interest.

Several years ago, King Abdullah tried to formalize the process by creating a 34-member Allegiance Council comprised of senior male members to decide questions of succession. Its meetings are held in total secrecy.

Former U.S. Ambassador to neighboring Bahrain, Adam Ereli, says the main issue facing any future king will be “accountability”. “Obviously, the new generation is going to have different views on issues of reform and what needs to be done,” Ereli said. “I think the rulers of Saudi Arabia recognize they’ve got to be responsive.”

Thursday, 13 Mar, 2014

London and Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has begun a state visit to China, the latest leg of an Asian tour that has included visits to Pakistan, Japan and India. The visit is expected to include high-level talks on economic, cultural and military cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China.

The Saudi Ambassador to Beijing, Yahya Al-Zaid, told Asharq Al-Awsat that a series of visits exchanged between Riyadh and Beijing has served to strengthen bilateral relations, with Crown Prince Salman’s visit to China this week only serving to further strengthen ties.

He affirmed that economic exchange between Saudi Arabia and China stood at 73 billion US dollars in 2013, while the number of Saudi students studying at Chinese universities has increased to more than 1,300.

He said: “These two numbers emphasize the importance of relations between Riyadh and Beijing.”

“Crown Prince Salman’s visit is very important, and takes place at a time when the world is witnessing political change, most prominently in terms of economic alliances. The timing of the Crown Prince’s visit is important and will serve to strengthen bilateral cooperation, particularly in terms of the economy, which remains the basis of Saudi–Chinese relations,” he added.

Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Beijing also highlighted the tourism and education sectors, praising the number of Saudi students studying in China and adding that “there may also be developments in the area of tourism exchange as well.”

The Chinese Ambassador to Riyadh, Li Chengwen, also hailed the timing of Crown Prince Salman’s visit to Beijing, saying it would strengthen strategic ties between the two countries.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, he described bilateral ties between Saudi Arabia and China as “strategic” and “friendly,” highlighting Beijing’s role in the Arab world.

He said: “Saudi–Chinese relations have witnessed ongoing development and growth over the past years, reaching the level of strategic partnership,” adding, “The important visit being paid by Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz will raise this to the highest level, and this serves the interests of the two brotherly peoples.”

“We in China take pride in this deep friendship between our two peoples, and the people of China have a great affection for the people of Saudi Arabia, based on mutual respect towards one another,” Chengwen added.

Saudi Crown Prince Salman is expected to meet Premier Li Keqiang, Defense Minister Chang Wanquan and other senior Chinese officials during his visit.

Last month, the Crown Prince visited Pakistan, Japan, India and the Maldives as part of a tour of Asia, discussing strengthening Saudi ties to the region.

Reporting by Fatah Al-Rahman Youssef from Riyadh and Adwan Al-Ahmari from London.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.


Thu Mar 13, 2014

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have arrested two members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood at Cairo’s request, Egypt’s top prosecutor has said.

The prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Wednesday that the two men were arrested after Egypt’s interim government put an international arrest warrant on them for “inciting violence” in the city of Port Said in 2013.

“The office of the public prosecutor has received a notification of the arrest of Akram al-Shaer by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the accused Mohamed al-Qabouti by the state of Kuwait,” the statement said.

Al-Shaer was head of the health committee in parliament during ousted Mohamed Morsi’s presidency.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have reportedly pumped billions of dollars into Egypt since the army ousted Egypt’s first democratically-elected president last July and suspended the country’s constitution and dissolved the parliament.

Egypt declared the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist” group late last year and accused its members of being responsible for a deadly bomb attack on a police headquarters building in the Delta Nile city of Mansoura in December 2013.

The Brotherhood, however, condemned the attack and denied involvement in the incident.

Last week, Riyadh followed Egypt’s suit to declare the 86-year-old group a terrorist organization.

Anti-government demonstrations have continued unabated across Egypt since Morsi’s ouster despite a heavy-handed crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters.

Human Rights Watch has denounced Egypt’s interim government for blacklisting the Brotherhood, saying the move “appears to be aimed at expanding the crackdown on peaceful Brotherhood activities and imposing harsh sanctions on its supporters.”

Source: PressTV.


Sun Mar 30, 2014

A court in Bahrain has sentenced 13 pro-democracy protesters including several teenagers to life in prison, as the Al Khalifa regime steps up its crackdown on dissent.

The court issued the verdicts on Sunday after convicting the defendants of allegedly attempting to kill a policeman and participating in an anti-regime protest outside the capital city of Manama in March 2012.

Mohammad Al-Tajir, a lawyer for the convicted Bahrainis, said another person was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the same case. He added that the defense plans to appeal.

On March 26, another court in Bahrain handed jail terms of up to 10 years to 29 anti-regime protesters.

The prosecution accused the men of being behind an attack with petrol bombs and iron rods on a police center in the village of Sitra, south of Manama, in April 2012. A policeman was wounded in the incident.

The defendants, however, dismissed the accusations, insisting that they were tortured and their confessions were obtained under duress.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.

On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters.

Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds injured and jailed by the regime forces since the uprising broke out.

Last month, Amnesty International denounced the “relentless repression” of anti-regime protesters in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom, blaming Bahraini security forces for their repeated use of “excessive force to quash anti-government protests.”

Source: PressTV.