Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques orders inclusion of Saudi students into government scholarships program

Russia’s Duma deputy speaker praises King Abdullah’s peace, intercultural dialogue initiatives

Israel’s failure to respond to peace efforts would augment terrorism, Mubarak warns in Rome

Abbas hands Mitchell reports about Israel’s practices

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has issued his directive approving the joining of Saudi male and female students now regularly studying on their accounts at institutes and universities in the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand with the Membership of the Scholarship Program.

In a statement to Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Minister of Higher Education Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Anqari said that he has the King's approval which comes as an embodiment of attention of the King, the Crown Prince and the Second Deputy Premier to the progress of education as well as the utilization of all capabilities for its development.

Meanwhile, Saudi Minister of Higher Education Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Anqari will start next Saturday a tour of Australia and New Zealand.

In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Saudi Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand Hassan Tala'at Nazer pointed out that the minister will hold talks with senior officials in the two countries and memorandums of scientific cooperation and research will also be signed.

He commended the outstanding educational progress witnessed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, thanks to the directives of King Abdullah, highlighting in this regard the monarch’s Program for Foreign Scholarships.

On the other hand, two German Children who have been set free by security forces recently left Riyadh accompanied by four German officials and three family members who came to the kingdom for this issue.

German ambassador to the Kingdom, Volkmar Wenzel, expressed gratitude and appreciation for the Kingdom's initiative taken for this case and which was dealt with by top level of authority.

Earlier, a security spokesman of the Ministry of Interior said that the concerned security authorities after contacting their counterpart-bodies in the Republic of Yemen, were able on Monday to bring back two German female children in the border region between the two countries, noting that they were among a group of those who were kidnapped by criminal elements last year.

The Spokesman said that the German Embassy in Riyadh has been notified of this, indicating that the two children are undergoing the required medical tests.

In Moscow, Deputy Speaker of Duma in Russia Valery Yazyev has highlighted the Saudi efforts under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to bring about peace in the Middle East.

He also hailed the efforts of King Abdullah for establishing international dialogue.

He noted that these efforts have paved the way for organizing Madrid conference in July 2008 for enhancing the pillars of co-existence among followers of different religions and cultures.

The remarks of Yazyev came during his meeting with the delegation of Saudi Majlis Al-Shura currently visiting Russia under the chairmanship of Dr Mohammed Al-Salim, the Head of the Saudi-Russian parliamentary friendship committee and member of Majlis Al-Shura.

Yazyev underlined the important role which could be played by the parliamentary friendship committee in cementing relations between Majlis Al-Shura and the Duma in a manner that serves bilateral relations.

On his part, Dr Al-Salim said the visit aims at deepening cooperation between Majlis Al-Shura and the Duma. He extended an invitation to Speaker of the Duma to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

He also praised the stand of Russia vis-à-vis the problems of the Middle East notably the Palestinian problem.

Dr Al-Salim underscored the importance of increasing the volume of joint investments between the Kingdom and Russia notably in the domains of energy, gas, atomic and renewable energy.

In Rome, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned on Wednesday during talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that terrorism will spread if Israel fails to address "fundamental" issues with the Palestinians.

Mubarak criticized Israel's refusal to address the definitive borders of a future Palestinian state during indirect peace talks with the Palestinians that have been approved by Arab nations.

According to the Egyptian president, Israel's insistence on discussing only "secondary issues," such as the environment and the rights to airspace, threatened to stall any peaceful resolution of the conflict.

"Then we will see terrorism increase and spread throughout the world," Mubarak said.

Berlusconi said Italy, together with its international allies, is "putting pressure" on both the Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations.

Earlier Wednesday, top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that U.S. President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas discussed possible outlines of a future Palestinian state during their Ramallah meeting.

"We are focusing on final-status issues like borders and security," Saeb Erekat told reporters after the meeting between Abbas and Mitchell, who is mediating indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

"We hope that in the next four months we can achieve the two-state solution on the 1967 borders," said Erekat, reiterating a Palestinian demand that Israel withdraws from Palestinian territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Mitchell will shuttle between Israel and the West Bank for the second substantive sessions since the Palestinians agreed to the indirect "proximity" talks, which have been given a maximum of four months to produce results.

Israeli leaders have said the Palestinians can raise core issues like the status of Jerusalem, final borders and the issue of Palestinian refugees in the indirect talks, but only direct negotiations can resolve them.

Palestinians say they could hold direct talks if Israel halts all settlement activities on occupied land.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week his government "is prepared to do things that are not simple, that are difficult".

Government sources said Netanyahu is favorably examining a proposal to expropriate land from Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank to build a road between Ramallah and a new Palestinian town under construction.

Abbas broke with tradition on Monday by failing to give a speech on the day that Palestinians mourn the creation of Israel, which they call the "nakba", or catastrophe. Analysts said he wanted to avoid an occasion in which he would be expected to condemn Israel in strong language.

The White House has said it will hold either side accountable for any action that could undermine negotiations.

The pledge appeared in part aimed at satisfying Abbas' fears that Israel's right-leaning government might announce further expansion of Jewish housing in and around Jerusalem.

Obama also urged Abbas to do all he can to prevent acts of incitement or delegitimization of Israel.

Israel captured East Jerusalem along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, and considers all of Jerusalem its capital, a claim that is not recognized internationally.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of the state they intend to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Direct peace talks were suspended in late 2008.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday urged U.S. peace envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, who arrived in the region on Tuesday, to pressure on Israel to stop its provocations against the Palestinians, a senior Palestinian official said.

Mitchell arrived in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday and held two-hour talks with Abbas. Mitchell will hold on Thursday similar talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over resuming the proximity talks with the Palestinians.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told a news conference following the meeting between Mitchell and Abbas that the latter had asked the American side to stop the "provocative Israeli practices, mainly settlement, raiding towns, assassinating Palestinians and imposed new facts on the ground."

"The Palestinians are not negotiating with Israel, they are focusing through the talks held with the American side on the permanent status issues, mainly the issues of borders and security until achieving the establishment of the Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967," said Erekat.

Erekat stressed that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is keen "to make Mitchell's mission successful," adding "we want to use every moment of the four-month devoted for the proximity talks until we achieve our goal of implementing the vision of the two-state solution."

Meanwhile, a Palestinian official said on Wednesday that any Israeli goodwill gestures must not be part of the U.S.-sponsored Palestinian-Israeli proximity peace talks.

"Israel's goodwill signs to release some Palestinian prisoners and remove a number of checkpoints in the West Bank are not scheduled in the talks," Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) told Voice of Palestine radio.

The proximity talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis kicked off earlier this month through U.S. mediation in an attempt to revive the direct peace talks that had been frozen since Israel waged a war on Gaza in December 2008.

The PLO official added that these actions cannot be part of the recently inaugurated negotiations, "simply because the PLO mainly focuses on key issues such as the borders, Jerusalem, the refugees and water."

The United States has promised the Palestinians that the state of Israel will make a number of "goodwill gestures" to pave the way and build confidence for the success of the talks.

"We have emphasized to the American peace envoy, George Mitchell, that the proximities will tackle the final status issues, " the Palestinian official revealed. These issues -- if resolved -- would enable the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Abed Rabbo also accused Israel of working to ruin the peace process through its continued settlement activities, affirming that the Palestinian leadership will save no efforts to make the peace process a success.

Earlier on Wednesday, a Palestinian source close to Abbas was quoted by the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper as saying that Abbas expected to receive answers from Mitchell to previous clarifications related to freezing settlement activities and discussing all permanent status issues in the talks.

The permanent issues are related to Jerusalem, settlement, refugees, borders, water and prisoners. Abbas also wants Israel to freeze settlement activities not only in the West Bank, but also in East Jerusalem.

The source said that Abbas would inform Mitchell that in case the two-state solution is agreed upon, he prefers to bring NATO forces to inspect the borders between Israel and the future Palestinian state.

According to the source, the NATO forces will observe the borders as well as the crossing points to prevent smuggling weapons to the demilitarized state of Palestine, adding "also to protect the new born state from Israeli assaults."

The source also told the daily that Abbas would guarantee to Mitchell that the PNA will continue fighting any Palestinian violent action or any incitement against Israel.

"President Abbas will ask for establishing the state on all the territories occupied by Israeli in 1967 with the possibility of territorial exchange with Israel, which wants to keep control of large settlement communities."

Abbas would also ask for a safe passage to link between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to keep geographical connection between the two territories of the Palestinian state, said the sources.

Mitchell's visit is the first since the Palestinians announced last week that the four-month proximity talks had been launched. Peace talks between the two sides had been stalled since December 2008.