Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques receives phone call from U.S. President Obama to discuss developments in the region

Prince Ahmad Ibn Abdulaziz: Bin Laden is not Saudi, U.S. did not ask Saudi Arabia to receive his body

Attack on Saudi consulate in Karachi leaves no casualties

Recent developments in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Egypt

Khamenei-Ahmadinejad rift intensifies

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received a telephone call from President Barack Obama of the United States of America.

During the telephone conversation, the bilateral relations between the two friendly countries and the overall situation at the regional and international arenas were reviewed and discussed.

Meanwhile, Prince Ahmad Ibn Abdulaziz, Vice Minister of Interior, who is also Honorary President of Saudi Alzheimer’s Disease Association, has expressed his pride in the continuing efforts exerted by the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the fight against diseases and their treatment as well as the establishment of health facilities and the charities, stressing that the leader of this march, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud is very keen to spread health awareness and the establishment of health facilities in general.

The Prince made these remarks in a press statement after patronizing a meeting of the Association's General Assembly this week.

In response to a question on the efforts of the Ministry of Interior in order to ward off the evil from whatever source it might be, he said' One of the tasks of the Ministry of the Interior is to ward off evil, whatever its source might be; and terrorism is no doubt a great evil that must be resisted. We see that terrorism is in a very great recession. We hope that young deviants will renounce themselves from the evil tracks as those who kill innocents will reside in the hell in the hereafter. All efforts have been exerted to fight anything detrimental to security and destabilization of the peace of the society.

In reply to a question about the body of Al-Qaeda leader, the Prince said, 'I have no official information in this domain.

Osama bin Laden is no longer a Saudi for a long time. We are not concerned directly about his matter. His family is in the Kingdom. It is the first one suffering from what he has done and sought for. The family has renounced him and his works.

Asked about the end of Al-Qaeda in the Kingdom with the killing of its leader, as well as its influence in some other countries, Prince Ahmad said, 'According to my impression and our information, we do not have the presence of Al-Qaeda.

As I said evil is receding, I do not think that anyone who says there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger, desires evil for people in this country, which is the country of Islam. If the country of Islam, its Muslim people and the Holy Mosque is a target of terrorists who claim to be Muslims, then they deviate from Islam. If they claim they are attacking or targeting people abusing Islam, then the Kingdom is a Muslim country and its citizens are all Muslims.

He concluded that a suicide bomber is the one who kills himself first and anyone who kills himself will be in the hell in the hereafter.

On the other hand, Saudi Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Abdulaziz bin Ibrahim Al-Ghadeer said that the attack in which two voice bombs were hurled at the premises of Karachi-based Saudi Consulate General has resulted in no human injuries nor in material damages.

Ambassador Al-Ghadeer, in a press statement to Saudi Press Agency (SPA), said all staff, Saudis as well as locals, at the Consulate are doing well and none of them is injured.

The Saudi Embassy in Islamabad and its Consulate in Karachi are following up the attack with concerned bodies, condemning the attack, and dismissing it as a terrorist act, the Ambassador added.

Prince Khalid bin Saud bin Khalid, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, had said that the Saudi Consulate General in Karachi has come under a terrorist attack, when two unidentified persons hurled two grenades at the Consulate, but left no casualties.

This criminal assault resulted in minor damages to the premises which are being repaired now. The authorities in Pakistan began investigation, gather evidences and chase the criminals.

Prince Khalid stated that the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has full confidence in the competence and capability of Pakistani government bodies to find the criminals and bring them to justice, and to provide the needed protection for the Saudi mission, in Pakistan, a matter currently undergoing a coordination.

In Sanaa, Yemeni police trying to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters in two cities Thursday killed two and wounded at least 47, some by gunfire, according to witnesses.

In one of the cities, protesters overran a government building. Gunmen fired at protesters in the central city of Bayda from the roof of a building belonging to the ruling party, killing two people and injuring seven, activist Ghazi al-Amiri said. In the southern city of Taiz, police fired live ammunition and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators there, injuring 40 people, said field doctor Sadeq al-Shujah.

Taiz has been a hotbed of anti-government protests. Activist Nouh al-Wafi said crowds seized control of the Oil Ministry building and hung a banner over the entrance on Thursday that said "Closed until further notice by order of the youth revolution."

Bushra al-Maktari, an activist in Taiz, said police fired tear gas at the demonstrators, and the government sent army and security reinforcements to confront thousands camped in the city's central square.

Demonstrations took place in Aden, Hadramawt, Hodeida and other cities.

Protesters have been demanding the resignation of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh in weeks of demonstrations, some involving tens of thousands of people. Saleh has been clinging to power, warning that if he leaves without an orderly succession, the Al-Qaeda branch in Yemen will take advantage of the resulting chaos.

Saleh torpedoed a mediation effort last month that appeared to be close to resolving the crisis. Yemen's powerful neighbors in the Gulf Cooperation Council put together a package that offered Saleh to name his own successor, avoid prosecution and step down in 30 days. Opposition leaders grudgingly accepted it, but at the last minute, Saleh refused to sign. On Thursday the GCC tried to resurrect the deal.

"The Gulf initiative is the best solution and an exit out of the country's dramatic situation stop the bloodshed and to spare the country further deterioration of the security and political division," GCC secretary-general Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said in a statement Thursday.

Media reports said al-Zayani was expected to visit Yemen to press the initiative.

On Thursday the U.S. State Department offered its support for the deal and demanded that in the meantime, Yemen's government stop firing on protesters.

"We call on the Yemeni security forces to exercise maximum restraint, refrain from violence and respect the rights of the Yemeni people to freely and peacefully assemble and express their views," spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

"We call on the parties to sign and implement the terms of the (GCC) agreement now to ensure an orderly, peaceful transition of power," Toner said. "This transition must begin immediately."

In Syria, security forces are pressing a deadly town-by-town crushing of dissent and mass round-up of opposition leaders, rights activists said, as Washington slammed the "barbaric" repression.

Thousands of students meanwhile defied the crackdown to stage a protest in Syria's second-largest city Aleppo late Wednesday before being dispersed by baton-wielding loyalists and security force personnel, a rights activist said.

At least 19 civilians were killed on Wednesday as troops and unknown gunmen assaulted protest hubs across the country, shelling and firing on some and encircling others with tanks, according to accounts by human rights activists.

Among the dead was an eight-year-old boy, the head of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, Ammar Qurabi, told AFP.

Sniper fire killed 13 people, including the youngster, in the village of Al-Harra, near the protest centre of Daraa, south of Damascus, Qurabi said.

Tank fire killed five people in the Baba Amr district on the outskirts of the central industrial city of Homs. Another civilian died in Jassem, near Daraa, he added.

Two soldiers were killed and five others wounded in clashes with "armed terrorist gangs" in the protest hubs of Homs and Daraa, state news agency SANA reported.

The deadly confrontations occurred as troops and security forces "arrested dozens of wanted men and seized large quantities of weapons and ammunition in the Bab Amr neighborhood of Homs" and in Daraa.

Another human rights activist said shelling and automatic weapons fire had rocked Homs, Syria's third largest city.

The army also kept up its sweep of the flashpoint Mediterranean town of Banias, scouting for "protest organizers yet to be arrested," said Rami Abdul Rahman of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Between 600 and 700 people have been killed and at least 8,000 arrested since the start of the protest movement in mid-March, human rights groups say.

The Syrian authorities insist they are pursuing "armed terrorist gangs."

In Washington, the State Department denounced the crackdown as "barbaric."

Syrian authorities "continue to extend their violent actions against peaceful demonstrators," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

"These repressive measures -- namely the ongoing campaign of arbitrary arrests, the denial of medical care to wounded persons, the inhumane conditions of detainees -- are barbaric measures that amount to collective punishment of innocent civilians."

Toner added that "we don't throw the word 'barbaric' around here very often" but that in this case, "the window is narrowing for the Syrian government to shift focus from its outright repression towards meeting the legitimate aspirations of its people."

Analysts said the Obama administration is still reluctant to call for an end to Assad's increasingly violent and repressive regime fearing that a revolution in Syria could bring chaos to a key part of the Middle East with significant repercussions for Lebanon, Iran and beyond.

Russia, a traditional Damascus ally, rejected calls for a special UN Security Council meeting on Syria to condemn the crackdown.

In the face of the persistent violence, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees suspended operations for 50,000 people in central and southern Syria, while UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for an end to "excessive force."

"I urge again President (Bashar) Assad to heed calls for reform and freedom and to desist from excessive force and mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators," the UN Secretary General told journalists in Geneva.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the bloc will look at fresh sanctions this week against Assad's regime after already homing in on his inner circle.

"We started with 13 people who were directly involved" in cracking down on protests, she told European MPs pressing her to explain why Assad was spared.

"We'll look at it again this week," she added. "I assure you that my intention is to put the maximum political pressure that we can on Syria."

The government said it formed a commission to draft within two weeks a new law to govern general elections that meets "international criteria," SANA reported.

"Our goal is to draw up an electoral law that is similar to the best laws across the world," said Deputy Justice Minister Najm al-Ahmad.

Protesters are demanding free elections, the release of political prisoners, constitutional changes that would strip the ruling Baath party of its hegemony over Syria as well as new media and political parties laws.

Last month, under pressure from the international community, Assad lifted nearly five decades years of emergency rule but the heavy-handed crackdown on pro-reform protesters has continued unabated.

In Libya, the head of the opposition said Thursday that Moammar Gadhafi is a legitimate target for rebel and NATO forces, but insisted his preference would be for the despot to be put on trial.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, chairman of Libya's National Transitional Council, also told reporters that the country's opposition believed it could take its deadlocked military campaign into Tripoli, if fighters secure sufficient weapons.

"Gadhafi is the commander in chief of the armed forces, he is the one who is encouraging everybody to fight and we think there is justification for him to be a legal target," Abdul-Jalil said in London, following a round of meetings with British ministers and non-governmental organizations.

Abdul-Jalil held talks with Prime Minister David Cameron, Foreign Secretary William Hague and other senior officials in his first visit to London since the U.K. joined the NATO-led air strikes against Gadhafi's regime.

NATO fighter jets pounded Gadhafi's sprawling compound in Tripoli and three other sites early Thursday, hours after he was seen on state TV in his first appearance since his son was killed nearly two weeks ago.

He said that the rebels were not encouraging NATO to kill Gadhafi and insisted he would be tried in Libya if arrested.

Abdul-Jalil also said rebels in Tripoli were in the process of acquiring weapons and predicted they would eventually contest Gadhafi's forces in the capital.

"Tripoli is surrounded both internally and externally, and every day its sons go out and execute a few limited operations, perhaps to acquire some weapons — and you will see that Tripoli will rise to get rid of this regime," he said.

He declined to say which nations were supplying the opposition with arms, but said fighters in Misrata had received shipments of light weapons.

Britain said in talks it would supply police officers in rebel-held eastern Libya with uniforms and body armor, and help establish a public radio station. Cameron has said the U.K. would not supply arms to the opposition.

"We need light weapons, which is not equivalent to Gadhafi's weapons — but perhaps with courage, which Libyans have — there may be some kind of balance," Abdul-Jalil said, asking for help from other nations prepared to send arms.

Although the transitional council doesn't yet have the all weapons it wants, it was making gains on the diplomatic front — securing a Friday invite to the White House.

The U.S. announced that Mahmoud Jibril, a representative of the council, would meet with senior administration officials, including National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, as well as members of Congress. A meeting with President Barack Obama did not appear to be part of the schedule for Jibril and his delegation.

Neither the U.S. nor the U.K. have followed France and Italy in recognizing the council as Libya's legitimate government, but an invitation to the White House could be a political boost for its members.

Back in London, Cameron said he had invited Abdul-Jalil to open a permanent office in London to cement contacts with Britain.

However, the U.K. has not followed France and Italy in recognizing the council as Libya's legitimate government.

"These steps continue our very clear intention to work with the council to ensure Libya has a safe and stable future, free from the tyranny of the Gadhafi regime," Cameron said, following talks at his Downing Street residence.

Hague said Britain would appoint John Jenkins, ex-British ambassador to Iraq, to head up a permanent U.K. mission in Benghazi.

In Rome, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he expects the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Gadhafi at the end of the month.

Frattini said that would be a "key moment" in the Libya crisis, suggesting that after the warrant is issued it would be impossible for Gadhafi to agree to an exile.

Italy has long maintained the future of Libya cannot include Gadhafi or family members.

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Feb. 26 to refer the Libyan crisis to the International Criminal Court.

In Egypt, the authorities on Friday ordered ousted president Hosni Mubarak to be held in detention for 15 days on charges he abused his position to illegally acquire wealth, the official MENA news agency said.

Assem al-Gohari, who heads the Illicit Gains Authority, "has ordered the detention of former president Hosni Mubarak for 15 days following questioning in Sharm el-Sheikh that lasted three hours, over accusations of the illegal acquisition of wealth," MENA said.

Mubarak, who is currently under arrest in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, and his wife Suzanne were questioned late Thursday over the corruption charges.

Investigators will continue questioning Suzanne Mubarak later on Friday, MENA said.

It was the first time the Mubaraks have been questioned by this branch of the justice ministry, which is looking into "charges that they used their position to acquire wealth illegally," the investigator's office had told AFP earlier.

Mubarak, who is in custody in a Sharm el-Sheikh hospital on grounds of ill health, has already been interrogated by the state prosecutor's office over several charges including ordering the shooting of anti-regime protesters.

His 30-year grip on power was brought to an end on February 11 following mass nationwide protests that called for his resignation and for political and economic reforms.

The former president was hospitalized on April 12 after suffering a heart attack, and detained a day later. His detention was extended twice, most recently on Tuesday.

The military council which has been in power since Mubarak stepped down has vowed to bring to justice all those accused of abuse and launched a sweeping probe into corruption.

Mubarak, his wife Suzanne, his two sons Alaa and Gamal and their wives were banned from travel and their assets ordered frozen by general prosecutor Abdel Magid Mahmud.

The two sons, along with dozens of officials and businessmen associated with the former regime, are being detained in Cairo's notorious Tora prison which housed political dissidents during the Mubarak era.

The illicit gains department said Mubarak and his wife would also be questioned about properties belonging to their two sons, who both also faced investigators last month in Tora prison.

That interrogation focused on their ties "with a company in Cyprus and one of the British Isles managing investment funds of some businessmen," a spokesman at the public prosecutor's office said.

Both men are also accused of forcing businessmen to give them a cut in local partnerships with foreign companies.

Before the popular uprising which ousted Mubarak, Gamal, who was close to business executives and held a top post in Egypt's ruling party, was regarded as the political heir to Mubarak, while Alaa concentrated on business.

The wives of Alaa and Gamal, Heidi Rasekh and Khadiga al-Gammal, have also been questioned over Mubarak's wealth. Earlier this month, Switzerland said it had frozen 410 million francs ($463 million) in funds linked to Mubarak and his associates.

At least 846 people were killed during the anti-regime protests that kicked off on January 25 and took 18 days to overthrow Mubarak. Over 6,000 people were injured in clashes with security forces and regime loyalists.

Meanwhile, the rift between Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamanei, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has intensified, a member of parliament says.

Morteza Agha-Tehrani, who is aligned with the Iranian president, said Friday Khamenei has told Ahmadinejad he must either accept his candidate for a Cabinet post or resign, The Guardian reported.

Ahmadinejad declined to officially support the ayatollah's reinstatement of Intelligence Minister Hevar Moslehi, who the president had asked to resign.

Agha-Tehrani quoted Ahmadinejad as saying Khamenei "gave me a deadline to make up my mind. I would either accept [the reinstatement] or resign," the British newspaper said.

Ahmadinejad's recalcitrance goes against the traditional fealty Iran's government leaders have shown to the country's supreme leader.

Clerics close to Khamenei have said disobeying Khamenei amounts to apostasy, as he is "God's representative on Earth." The Guardian said Ahmadinejad reportedly was absent from religious ceremonies this week at Khamenei's house.