Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques discusses with Barzani Iraq developments, stresses Saudi Arabia’s support for Iraq’s unity, independence, sovereignty

Sultan Qaboos, Turkish president review regional developments

Obama considers sanctions regime on Iran

Ahmadinejad unveils 3rd generation of centrifuges

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received at his palace President of Iraq's Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani and the accompanying delegation.

During the meeting, they reviewed issues of common interest.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques decorated the President of Iraq's Kurdistan Region with King Abdulaziz Sash of the first class.

The meeting was attended by Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Commander of the National Guard for Executive Affairs; and Prince Abdulaziz bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Chief of General Intelligence for Intelligence Affairs.

Barzani and the accompanying delegation had arrived in Riyadh on April 12.

At King Khalid International Airport, the President was received by Prince Abdulaziz bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Chief of General Intelligence for Intelligence Affairs; and a number of officials.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud chaired the Cabinet session held at Al-Yamamah Palace.

At the outset of the session, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques briefed the Cabinet on the talks he held with President Jalal Talabani of Iraq during his visit to the Kingdom. The King praised the depth of relations between the two brotherly countries and hailed their keenness on developing such relations in various fields. The King reiterated the Kingdom's support for Iraq's territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques also briefed the Cabinet on the outcome of the talks he held with President Nguyen Minh Triet of Vietnam. These talks led to the signing of cooperation agreements.

In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) following the session, the Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz bin Mohieddin Khoja said the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques briefed the Cabinet on the messages, contacts and consultations that took place during the past week with a number of leaders of brotherly and friendly countries, including the two messages he received from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain and Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait in addition to the telephone call he made to President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak of Egypt as well as the meeting he held with former US President Bill Clinton.

Dr. Khoja also said that the Cabinet listened to a number of reports about regional and international developments. In this context, the Cabinet offered condolences to the government and people of Poland on the death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and a number of Polish officials and citizens following the crash of the plane carrying them.

Dr. Khoja also said that the Cabinet reviewed the scientific, cultural, social and economic activities held during the past few days in the Kingdom, notably the eighth national meeting for intellectual dialogue held in Najran during the period from 23 to 25/04/1431H. under the theme of 'Society and Health Services' as well as the general meeting of Saudi ambassadors and heads of missions abroad currently held in Riyadh.

Dr. Khoja said that the Cabinet reviewed a number of issues on its agenda and issued the following decisions:

The Cabinet approved a number of measures pertaining to the reorganization of the national commission for the implementation of the Kingdom's commitments to the conventions on the prohibition of weapons of mass destruction.

The Cabinet approved a number of measures pertaining to the continued escalation of prices of barley in the domestic market.

The Cabinet approved the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Colombia at the level of a Non-Resident Ambassador, and authorized the Foreign Minister (or his deputy) to sign a protocol in this regard.

The Cabinet approved licensing the establishment of a joint stock company named 'Al-Jazeera Takaful Company' in accordance with its statute annexed to the decision.

The Cabinet authorized the Minister of Health (or his deputy) to discuss and sign with the Belgian side a draft memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the health fields between the Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Belgium.

The Cabinet approved the following:

1- Appointing Dr. Ibrahim bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al-Butthi as Mayor Undersecretary for Services (Rank 15) at the Municipality of Riyadh Region.

2- Appointing Jamal bin Hussein bin Abdullah Aqeel as Ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

3- Appointing Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Abu Haimed as Minister Plenipotentiary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

4- Appointing Ahmed bin Yunis bin Suleiman Al-Barak as Minister Plenipotentiary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

5- Appointing Jamal bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Saleh Rafh as Minister Plenipotentiary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

6- Transferring Saad bin Abdulaziz bin Saad Al-Saaidan from Tax Advisor (Rank 14) to Deputy Director General of the Department for Executive Affairs (Rank 14) at the Department of Zakat and Income Tax.

7- Appointing Nasser bin Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thaiban as Tax Advisor (Rank 14) at the Department of Zakat and Income Tax.

Meanwhile, the sultanate of Oman and Turkey have agreed to strengthen ties following top-level talks in Muscat on Monday.

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who arrived in the Omani capital earlier on Monday on his first official visit to Oman, underlined the importance of stepping up bilateral cooperation, especially because both countries ‘share the same foreign policy principles’.

Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdallah, in a statement to the Press after the discussions, said Sultan Qaboos and Gul reviewed Oman-Turkey relations and the latest regional and international political developments.

“His Majesty the Sultan affirmed the sultanate’s keenness to benefit from Turkish construction and other companies and voiced a desire to further develop bilateral relations,” Abdallah said.

Commenting on regional issues, Sultan Qaboos noted that the Middle East had “witnessed many crises and wars, and therefore joint efforts are needed to help avoid more wars in the region, taking into account the region’s global importance.”

The President said his country was keen to expand cooperation with the sultanate in all sectors, especially in the cultural field.

He referred to the historic and cultural bonds between the sultanate and Turkey, noting that they were two Islamic countries with a
rich past.

He reaffirmed that his country and the sultanate shared similar approaches to foreign policy, as both depended on “constructive dialogue as a means of resolving political and non-political disputes.” This, he added, was an important logic in regional and international cooperation as it provided common grounds for the establishment of peace and stability.”

Gul also explained Turkey’s efforts in developing relations with neighboring countries, its ties with Russia, the EU and Arab states and its support for the cause of Arab and Islamic nations.

Earlier, upon his arrival in Muscat on a three-day official visit, Gul was given a warm reception and was greeted at the Muscat Museum Gate by Sultan Qaboos and other top dignitaries.

On the other hand, President Barack Obama, wrapping up a 47-nation nuclear security summit, said Tuesday he is confident China will join other nations in pressing for tough new sanctions on Iran for continuing to defy the international community in seeking nuclear weapons.

"Words have to mean something. There have to be some consequences," Obama told reporters at a news conference at the conclusion of the two-day gathering.

He was asked about China's reluctance in the past to join other major nations in backing tough sanctions.

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tuesday gave a speech to the group calling for "effective" measures to safeguard nuclear weapons and materials but stopped short of mentioning Iran's program.

Hu and Obama met for 90 minutes on Monday after which U.S. officials said the two agreed to tell their aides to work on a tough new sanctions program. However, a Chinese spokesman did not mention sanctions in his description of the meeting.

China imports oil from Iran and in the past had been reluctant to endanger that supply line.

"The Chinese are obviously concerned about what harm this might have on the economy generally," Obama said. "Iran is an oil-producing state. ... A lot of countries around the world have trade relationships with Iran and we're mindful of that."

But Obama said Hu had assured him that China would participate in drafting sessions at the United Nations on a new tough sanctions regime.

"I think that we have a strong number of countries on the Security Council who believe this is the right thing to do," Obama said. "But I think these negotiations can be difficult," he added.

China is one of five permanent members of the Security Council with veto powers, along with the U.S., Russia, Britain and France.

Obama said that the new sanctions would make it easier to isolate Iran, as the global community had done for North Korea as it continued to develop nuclear weapons.

Obama said Pyongyang had chosen a path of "severe isolation," which has hurt the North Korean people. Obama said he hoped sanctions would add pressure on North Korea's leaders to return to the six-party talks.

But Obama said he believes the U.S. approach would make it more likely for North Korea to alter its behavior rather than allowing the communist nation to operate its nuclear program without consequences — and could have a similar impact in Iran.

"Sanctions," Obama acknowledged, "aren't a magic wand."

"What sanctions do accomplish is hopefully to change the calculus of a country like Iran so that they see that there are more costs and fewer benefits to pursuing a nuclear weapons program," he said.

On an area of major disagreement with China, Obama acknowledged that he did not win a concession from Hu that China would move to let its currency rise with market forces.

China sees the matter as "a sovereign issue," Obama said. However, he emphasized, "It is actually in China's interest to achieve this rebalancing."

China currently pegs its currency, the yuan, to the U.S. dollar.

American manufacturers claim this severely holds down the price of Chinese products in other markets, making their own goods less competitive.

Obama was asked whether some of the momentum built at the summit on combating the spread of nuclear weapons could be transferred to other causes, such as achieving peace in the Middle East.

"The need for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and the Arab states remains as critical as ever," he said. But, in a sober assessment, he added: "It is a very hard thing to do."

"Even if we are applying all of our political capital to that issue, the Israeli people, through their government, and the Palestinian people, through the Palestinian Authority, as well as other Arab states, may say to themselves, 'We are not prepared to resolve these issues no matter how much pressure the United States brings to bear.'"

Throughout his news conference, Obama struck a measured tone about the role of the United States in international affairs. He made it clear it was absolutely the role of the U.S. to lead on matters such as nuclear security if other countries are to do their part.

But on getting countries in the Mideast to agree to peace, on getting the Chinese to move to a market-based currency, on getting Iran and North Korea to play by international rules on nuclear compliance, on getting countries to live up to their fresh pledges on nuclear security, Obama repeatedly said the U.S. can't enforce the world. Countries must respond on their own.

"In all of our efforts internationally, in every treaty that we sign, we're relying on goodwill on the part of those who are signatories to those efforts. That's the nature of international relations," he said.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week unveiled the first sample of new generation of centrifuges, local satellite Press TV reported.

Ahmadinejad unveiled the sample of third generation of centrifuges in a ceremony held in Tehran on Friday marking Iran's annual national nuclear day.

He hailed the recent achievements made in nuclear field in the ceremony broadcast live from the state TV.

Earlier, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali-Akbar Salehi, who is also Iran's vice president, said that Iran has designed the third generation of centrifuges and they have passed mechanical tests.