Saudi Arabia denies British press reports about green-lighting Israel to use its airspace for attacks on Iran

EU sets for fresh sanctions on Iran

Russia says won’t export S-300 missiles to Iran

Iraq legislators fail to reach agreement on government formation

Turkey signs economic deal with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan

Italian FM admits mistake as to give Turkey impression it is not welcome in EU

An official source at the Foreign Ministry told Saudi Press Agency the following:

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia followed some British media's allegations based on slander and false accusation that it will allow Israel to launch an attack on Iran through its territory.

The source stated that Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reiterates its position of firm opposition and rejection of the violation of its sovereignty and the use of its airspace or territory by anyone to attack any country and it is more appropriate that Saudi Arabia should apply this policy to the authority of the Israeli occupation with which it has no relationship in any way.

The Ambassador of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to United Kingdom Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf has categorically denied allegations circulated in British newspapers that the Kingdom has given permission to Israeli aircraft to attack Iran by flying over its territories.

In a press statement, he said this would be against the policy adopted and followed by the Kingdom.

He reiterated the Kingdom’s stand in rejecting any violation of its territories or airspace.

He added it would be illogical to allow the Israeli occupying force, with whom Saudi Arabia has no relations whatsoever, to use its land and airspace.

On the other hand, EU leaders are set to adopt a new set of sanctions against Iran Thursday in a further effort to stall its disputed nuclear program.

The additional restrictions, due to be approved during a summit focused primarily on economic issues, will target Iran's oil industry, shipping and air cargo companies, and dual-use products that could be utilized as part of the nuclear program.

More sanctions will also be imposed on trade insurance and financial transactions.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday that Europe needs to play a full role in international efforts.

This means "making sure that we have a strong package of sanctions against Iran, something that is going to be discussed today," he said. "We believe it is incredibly important."

The new EU measures will strengthen those adopted last week by the U.N. Security Council, after Iran rebuffed a plan to suspend uranium enrichment and swap its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium for fuel rods.

The U.N. is seeking to disrupt the money flow to Iran's Revolutionary Guard. It calls for an asset freeze on 40 additional companies and organizations involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities.

The United States, Israel and other nations fear that Iran will continue to upgrade its uranium enrichment program until it can produce a nuclear weapon. Iran says it only seeks to develop fuel for its energy and research reactors and that it has the right to enrich uranium under the international nonproliferation treaty.

Tehran has dismissed the impact of sanctions, vowing to expand its atomic research program.

On Thursday, the country's defense minister said the new sanctions would not affect Iran's armed forces because the country is militarily self-sufficient.

"We are not seeking arms. We have the capability to export," Gen. Ahmad Vahidi was quoted as saying on the website of Iran’s state TV.

Iran has been pursuing self-sufficiency in military production since 1992.

At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, the bloc's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the door remains open for negotiations with Tehran.

She said she had invited Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili to discuss the issue. EU officials said Tehran was expected to accept the invitation and that talks could resume later this summer.

The new U.N. sanctions prevent Russia from delivering S-300 air-defense missiles to Iran, a Kremlin official said, in a reversal of the position announced by Russia's Foreign Ministry the day before.

The Kremlin statement was sure to please Israel and the United States, which have long urged Russia not to supply the powerful missile system. Russia signed a deal to sell the missiles in 2007, but has delayed their delivery.

The U.N. Security Council resolution passed Wednesday bans Iran from developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, investing in nuclear-related activities and buying certain types of heavy weapons.

The Kremlin official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the S-300 falls under these sanctions.

The U.N. resolution does not specifically prohibit Russia from supplying the S-300, the U.S. State Department spokesman said. "However, for the first time, the resolution calls for states to exercise vigilance and restraint in the sale or transfer of all other arms and related materiel," spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington. "We appreciate Russia's restraint in the transfer of the S-300 missile system to Iran." This distinction may help explain the initial confusion.

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said the U.N. resolution did not apply to air-defense systems, with the exception of shoulder-fired missiles.

The head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, which oversees arms trade, also said Thursday that the sanctions would not affect the S-300 deal. But the agency said an analysis of the resolution indicated the missile system was banned under the new sanctions.

In Paris, a French presidential aide said that Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said that Russia had decided to "freeze the delivery of the S-300 missiles."

Putin also said supporting the Iran sanctions was a decision that "wasn't exactly easy," according to the presidential aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with Sarkozy's office policy.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will issue a decree specifying which types of weapons cannot now be sold to Iran, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Moscow.

Russia in the past has sold other air-defense missiles, aircraft and other weapons to Iran.

On the other hand, Iraq's new parliament convened for just under 20 minutes Monday in what was little more than a symbolic inaugural session because of unresolved differences over key government positions — a precarious political limbo three months after inconclusive elections.

The sides are sharply divided over the formation of a new government, and analysts and some lawmakers have warned that a decision could still be months away. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is battling to keep his job after the rival Sunni-backed Iraqiya list narrowly won the most seats in the March 7 balloting.

In parliament, al-Maliki watched as his chief rival, Ayad Allawi, who heads the Iraqiya bloc, and other lawmakers stood to take the oath of office in Arabic and Kurdish. The other half of the session was taken up by the singing of the national anthem and readings from the Quran.

Under Iraq's constitution, the legislature should have chosen a parliament speaker and a president, but these appointments had to be put off because they are part of the negotiations between major political blocs over the rest of the new leadership — including a prime minister and top Cabinet officials.

Acting speaker, Fouad Massoum, adjourned the session after about 20 minutes, saying the parties needed more time to discuss the issue.

He said the session would be left open, a technicality aimed at allowing negotiations to continue beyond the 30-day deadline set in the constitution. No date was set for the next meeting.

The session began amid heightened security, a day after insurgents stormed the country's central bank in a coordinated attack that left more than 20 people dead.

Persistent violence has raised fears that al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgents are trying to exploit the political deadlock to foment unrest and derail security gains as the U.S. military prepares to withdraw by the end of next year.

U.N. envoy to Iraq Ad Melkert said it could take anywhere from two weeks to three months for the parliament to meet again but the fact that parliament was seated put pressure on the factions to reach agreement.

"This is an invitation by the newly elected parliament to make sure as soon as possible they can start to function effectively," he said.

Al-Maliki's State of Law coalition, which won 89 seats to come in second place behind Allawi's Iraqiya list, has joined forces with a religiously devout Shiite alliance to form an Iranian-backed bloc called the National Alliance.

Iraqiya leaders have claimed they should have the first crack at forming the government because they won the most seats on election day. But a March court opinion opened the door to the possibility that the largest bloc could be one created after the election through negotiations — meaning that if the super-Shiite coalition holds together, it could have the right to form the government.

Massoum confirmed the National Alliance as an entity, but said it was up to the Federal Court to make a decision on the formation of the government.

The Shiite bloc insisted it should be the one to choose a prime ministerial candidate, who would then have to be approved by the president.

"Today lawmakers have completed their membership and we are the biggest parliamentary bloc," said Khalid al-Attiyah, a National Alliance lawmaker.

Iraqiya lawmakers quickly dug their heels in, saying the coalition would not accept the National Alliance's self-coronation as it had no legal or moral authority do so. "We think that their announcement lacks a lot of legal regulations, and it is just for media and not legally binding for Iraqiya to go with it or accept it," said Osama al-Nujaifi, a senior Sunni Iraqiya lawmaker.

Christopher Hill, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said ultimately "this will get down to some real hardball politics." He declined to speculate how long it might be before parliament meets again, adding: "I don't think anybody has a solution yet as to how to square the circle of the positions that need to be decided."

The political jockeying was taking place amid fears that Sunnis who supported Allawi, a secular Shiite, could turn to violence if they feel disenfranchised. Much of the violence that broke out after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion was fueled by retaliatory attacks between Sunnis who lost the dominance they had under Saddam Hussein and Shiite extremists.

Iraqi security forces sealed off the area surrounding the central bank and nearby stores were closed Monday, a day after the assault on the bank.

Witnesses and Iraqi police and army officials at the scene said there were about six attackers wearing military uniforms. The bank's main entrance and the pavement were still stained with blood.

Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi has blamed the attack on al-Qaida in Iraq.

Gunmen pretending to have car trouble also killed three members of a government-backed Sunni militia in Balad, 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Baghdad, according to police and hospital officials.

Another Sunni security checkpoint in Shurqat, 155 miles (250 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, was hit by two mortars in the afternoon, killing one guard and wounding three people who were driving past, police and hospital officials said. Turkey and the Arab countries of Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, have decided to establish a cooperation council to create "a zone of free movement of goods and persons" among them.

They invite all other interested countries to join what Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says should not be seen as an alternative to the European Union.

Davutoglu says Turkey is still eager to join the EU but that the bloc "cannot and should not restrict (Turkey's) relations with its neighbors."

The deal was signed Thursday during the Turkish-Arab Economic Forum, where officials from Arab nations burst into applause as Turkey's prime minister walked to the podium.

Turkey's popularity in the Middle East has risen amid disputes over Israel's Gaza blockade and U.N. sanctions against Iran. Arab nations burst into applause Thursday as Turkey's prime minister walked to the podium at a summit, reflecting Turkey's meteoric rise on the world stage amid disputes over Israel's blockade of Gaza and U.N. sanctions against Iran.

The Turkish-Arab Economic Forum opened with calls for an international investigation into the May 31 Israeli commando raid on aid ships bound for Gaza, a topic emphasized by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Are we going to remain silent over the murder of nine people? We can't turn a blind eye to this banditry in international waters," Erdogan told the Turkish-Arab Economic Forum. "From now on, this can't continue as it is."

Arab league chief Amr Moussa also accused Israel continued "atrocity and assault" in violation of human rights and international law and praised Turkey for challenging Israel on the raid that left eight Turkish activists and a Turkish-American teenager dead.

Israel insists its commandoes acted in self-defense after being attacked by pro-Palestinian activists on the aid ships.

Moussa said the nine dead "are our martyrs as well."

Turkey's popularity in the Muslim world has surged as it led the world in condemning Israel for the raid on ships trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. Turkey — a non-Arab, predominantly Muslim country — also won favor among Arab allies for objecting to new sanctions against Iran, which the U.N. Security Council passed Wednesday after rejecting an Iranian nuclear fuel swap-deal brokered by Ankara.

"Arms, embargoes and exclusion are not working," Erdogan said, adding that the world was paying a heavy price as a result of such policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"There are hundreds of thousands of widows, who will account for this? There are orphans, who will account for this? Those who turn this geography into this (mess) have to be held accountable."

Erdogan, however, said his country would still work to keep the nuclear swap-deal Turkey brokered to resolve the Iranian dispute on the table.

He strongly rejected allegations in the West that Turkey was shifting toward the East, describing such claims as "evil intentioned" and attempts to prevent Turkey from establishing relations with the Arab world.

Erdogan stressed Turkey's commitment to its membership bid in the European Union, but at the same time accused the EU countries of not being sincere and raising obstacles.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri and other foreign ministers from about 15 other Arab nations also attended the summit.

Hariri said the Middle East was suffering under Israel's "criminal and barbaric" attitude.

"We support Turkey's demands not only about the international investigation, but for Israel to apologize," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit said. "We support Turkey's demand to try those behind these acts."

Turkey also says Israel's partial easing of its Gaza blockade was not enough. At another summit in Istanbul earlier this week, Turkey and 21 Asian countries urged Israel to join the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and place its nuclear capabilities under the safeguards of the International Atomic Agency.

Turkey said Israel should not be left out from any scrutiny of its alleged nuclear arsenal, which Israel has never confirmed, and also said Iran should be able to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Although courting membership in the European Union, Turkey has also strengthened its ties with its Arab neighbors by mediating several conflicts, cultivating new relationships with former rivals such as Syria and Iran, forging free trade zones and gradually lifting mutual visa requirements.

The economic forum, set up in 2007, aims to build on a trade volume that soared to $29 billion last year between Turkey and Arab League countries, from $13 billion in 2004.

Erdogan said direct investments from the Middle East, Gulf and North African countries had reached a total of $8 billion in Turkey over the last five years — a figure that could be improved.

"These figures do not reflect our real potential, and we must work together harder to promote our economic and trade relations," Erdogan said. "We aim to create a free trade area with Arab countries."

Turkey already has free-trade agreements with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Palestine and Tunisia, and is negotiating similar deals with Lebanon and Libya, he said.

Turkey also lifted entry visa requirements for Jordanians, Libyans, Syrians and Lebanese and would like to extend "the free-trade and visa-free zone" to other countries in the region, Erdogan said.

Meanwhile, Italy's foreign minister indicated Thursday he agreed with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the European Union's refusal to embrace Turkey had pushed Ankara "eastwards."

"I think that we Europeans have made a mistake in pushing Turkey eastwards instead of bringing them towards us," Franco Frattini told the Frankfurter Allgemeine German daily in an interview.

"If we give Turkey the impression that we don't want them as a member of the European Union family then they will have a look around for other perspectives," for example regional powers like Iran and Syria, he said.

"This is not in Europe's interests ... We still have some time.

But we have to speed up the membership process" of Turkey joining the 27-nation bloc.

Gates's comments in London on Wednesday along the same lines reflected growing dismay in Washington over Ankara no longer reliably backing US diplomacy and Turkey's worsening relations with Israel.

"If there is anything to the notion that Turkey is, if you will, moving eastward, it is my view in no small part because it was pushed and pushed by some in Europe, refusing to give Turkey the kind of organic link to the West that Turkey sought," Gates told reporters.

Ankara is frustrated at the glacial pace of EU membership talks, with notably France and Germany cool on the mainly Muslim country of 80 million people joining the bloc.

Turkey meanwhile is irritated by Washington's reticent response to a deal with Tehran brokered by Turkey and Brazil for a nuclear fuel swap.

Turkey and Brazil, another country becoming more assertive on the international stage, both voted in the UN Security Council against imposing a fourth round of sanctions on Iran on Wednesday.

Ties between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated in recent months and took a sharp turn for the worse last week after Israeli commandos shot dead nine Turkish activists on an aid ship trying to break a blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Turkey -- once Israel's main regional ally -- has now recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and scrapped joint military drills, saying economic and defense ties would be reduced to a "minimum level".

Frattini said that he and German counterpart Guido Westerwelle wanted to "talk about what we are going to do about Turkey" at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday.