Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques patronizes annual meeting of fifth term of Majlis Al-Shura

King Abdullah sets in his speech Saudi Arabia’s policy in local, regional and international arenas

King Abdullah: Our call for intercultural and interfaith dialogue emanates from our belief that dialogue is the road to peace

U.S. administration welcomes King Abdullah’s decision on women’s participation in Majlis Al-Shura, candidacy for Municipal Elections

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud patronized the annual meeting for the third year of the fifth term of Majlis Al-Shura.

Upon arrival at Majlis Al-Shura headquarters, the King was received by Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz, the Acting Governor of Riyadh region, and the Speaker of Majlis Al-Shura Sheikh Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al Al-Sheikh.

The King, then, shook hands with the Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and President of Senior Scholars Council and Scholarly Research and Ifta Department Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Al-Sheikh, President of the Supreme Council of Magistracy Dr. Saleh bin Abdullah bin Homaid, and a number of scholars and sheikhs.

The King, then, delivered the following address:

'In the name of Allah, the most Merciful, the most Gracious, Peace be upon Prophet Mohammed and His companions,

Dear Brothers:

I am pleased to meet you at the opening of the third year of the fifth term of Majlis Al-Shura, praying to Allah Almighty to crown your works with success.

The struggle of the father of all people, the late King Abdulaziz, with your grandfathers (Mercy be upon their souls), has resulted in the unity of hearts, land, and one destiny. Today, this destiny imposes on us to preserve this legacy, and not to stop here, but to develop it further in line with Islamic and moral values.

Yes, it is a responsibility towards our religion, and the interest of our country and its citizens that we should not stop at the hurdles of the current time; but we should strengthen our determination by patience and works with dependence on Allah to address them.

Balanced modernization in line with our Islamic values, which preserve rights, is an important requirement in an era with no room for the weak and undecided people.

All people know that Muslim women have had in the Islamic history, positions that cannot be marginalized, including correct opinions and advice since the era of Prophet Mohammed, as examples, we cite the advice of the Mother of Believers 'Umm Salamah' on 'Al-Hudaybiyah' Day, in addition to many examples during the era of the Prophet's companions and followers until today.

'Since we reject to marginalize the role of women in the Saudi society, in every field of works, according to the (Islamic) Sharia guidelines, and after consultations with many of our scholars, especially those in the senior scholars council, and others, who have expressed the preference for this orientation, and supported this trend, we have decided the following:

First, the participation of women in the Majlis Al-Shura as members from next session in accordance with the Shari'a guidelines.

Second, as of the next session, women will have the right to nominate themselves for membership of Municipal Councils, and also have the right to participate in the nomination of candidates with the Islamic guidelines.

You -my brothers and sisters- have rights that we strive to achieve all matters that are for your pride, your dignity and your interests. It is our right to seek your opinions and advices, according to Sharia guidelines, and the fundamentals of religion, and those who keep away from these guidelines, they are arrogant persons and they have to bear the responsibility of these actions.

I pray Allah Almighty for help and glory.

May peace and Allah's mercy and blessings be upon you. The following is the full speech the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud addressed to the works of the third year of the fifth term of Majlis Al-Shura.

We praise God who commend the faithful who maintain 'Their affairs by mutual consultation', and Peace and blessing be upon Prophet Mohammed and His companions, Dear Brothers, Members of Majlis Al-Shura:

In the name of Allah, we declare open the third year of the fifth term of Majlis Al-Shura, praying to Allah Almighty to crown your works with success.

Dear Brothers:

I am pleased at this annual meeting which brings me to this excellent group of the country to review with you the procession of a full year, during which the State sought to achieve its goals and ambitions in order to serve citizens and realize their prosperity. Our meeting with you comes concomitantly with the 81st anniversary of the National Day of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which consolidates for all of us the greatness of the achievements put forward by the founder of this country, the late King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud, whose approach has been maintained by his sons. On this occasion, from which we take lessons and wisdom, we congratulate our honorable people, and emphasize our determination to continue to overcome all difficulties and to exert the efforts and pursue progress to achieve development in various fields throughout the country. As the world around us is facing turmoil and troubling events, your country continues its march in development and enjoys security and stability in light of national unity which reflects the cohesion and loyalty between the leaders of this country and its loyal noble people.

After our return from our trip, we issued a number of decisions covering several sectors and segments, by which we sought to ease the burdens of life and to provide all means of a decent living for every citizen, promoting social justice, fighting corruption, and meeting the needs and requirements of our people so that everyone will enjoy a prosperous present and be assured of a secure future for the coming generations.

From this platform, I say to all ministers and officials of all governmental bodies: the State has approved its gigantic projects for the funding of which it has not hesitated to allocate billions to achieve the prosperity of citizens. Your responsibility and commitment towards your faith and your brothers the people of this nation demand that you speedily achieve what have been set forth. We absolutely reject any negligence and we will not accept any excuses whatever it may be.

For a year of continuous work at internal and external levels, we have tried to evaluate the achievements and challenges we faced, and looked with optimism to what we will do in the future. Our guiding principle is our faith, and then the efforts of dedicated citizens who trustfully shoulder the preservation of this magnificent edifice with its security, stability, and safety of residents, sensing the importance of engaging in the development of all state facilities to raise their efficiency.

Despite the successes, we still see them fall short of our ambitions since we aspire for more of what will be bountiful for our people.

Since we are in a changing world, we are determined to continue the development process, the economic liberalization, enhancement of the efficiency of administrative work, and employment of balanced policies for a bright future. We have harvested what parents and grandparents planted. Our responsibility multiplies; for the children and grandchildren to reap the maximum benefit, quantity is not as important as the quality of the crop.

Dear Brothers:

The stability and unity of the nation are the safety valve, and we do not allow any threat to the national unity and security of society. Reviving tribal pride and playing on the strings of sectarian conflict as well as labeling segments of society and using derogatory epithets and names are contrary to Islam, to its spirit of tolerance, and its contents.

The holding fast to national unity and cementing its contents are of prior necessity. Each of us must put those as one's task, and we hope they will be of your interests and of the deliberations of your honorable Council. The continuation of national dialogue as a way of life and approach to dealing with all issues along with broadening participation among all segments of Saudi society is of utmost importance for the promotion of national unity, addressing local issues, and creating a channel for responsible expression of opinion. These are objectives grounding King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue which we established several years ago because we are convinced of its importance as an umbrella for proper national dialogue.

The security of the homeland has been one of the foremost duties with which the security agencies are honored to perform, and have proven their ability in confronting terrorism. These agencies are determined to achieve more successes in the light of their leaders and personnel who are qualified scientifically and professionally. They, with Almighty help, will be able to preserve the achievements of development.

Experience and events have proven that the citizen is the first security man and an important partner in the achievements the security agencies have writ large in defeating claims of false and deviant opinions, and in thwarting terrorist plots hatched by the deviant groups targeting the country's security. These deviant groups used religion to lure the nation's sons through adopting an erroneous, false and extremist religious interpretation. Our religion is innocent of all these claims; it is a religion of mercy, tolerance and forgiveness.

In addition to the importance of national security, water security is also no less important. It is one of the strategic objectives of the development plans in the Kingdom which is supporting it through the expansion of establishing desalination plants and building dams that help enhance the wealth resources of underground water. Careful to cut the expenses of now used means of water production, the State has adopted the national initiative for the desalination of salt water through the use of solar energy scheduled to for implementation in three phases over a period of nine years.

In order to preserve this national wealth which forms the sinews of life and core of development, the State approved relevant laws and regulations that organize the use of water resources for the optimum benefit of the Public good, in addition to initiating advanced centers of research and water technologies in accordance with the most modern technical and scientific standards, placing our country on a bar with pioneering countries in salt water desalination.

Dear Brothers:

Your State seeks always the well being of citizens, improvement of their living conditions beginning with securing medicament and health welfare, because human health is the yardstick measuring people's progress and advancement.

This has been reflected obviously in continuing the launching of integrated hospitals in various cities, raising their capacities, building health care centers in villages and smaller communities, providing modern medical equipments, in addition to upgrading national cadres to work in the health field through establishing faculties of medicines and health training centers throughout the Kingdom. We have issued our order to earmark SR 16 billion for implementing and expanding a number of medical cities.

We are continuing, with the grace and guidance of Allah, on the same direction towards upraising health services sector in the Kingdom, whether through concentrating on building new health projects or through improving existing hygienic environment and increasing their fiscal allocations.

Dear Brothers:

The 9th five-year economic plan which has been endorsed by your Majlis, would be, with the grace and guidance of Allah, helpful to all of us in achieving what we are yearning to in consolidating wellbeing, growth and prosperity. It stipulates achieving social stability, safeguarding the protection of human rights and national unity. It also emphasizes raising citizen's standards of living, continuing on the path of diversifying economic bases, sustainable and balanced development for all regions, revamping private sector roles and subsidizing small and medium-sized enterprises.

Proceeding on state keenness on continuity development process in all domains, it inaugurates a ministry for housing and assists industrial, real-estate and agricultural funds to provide financial facilities and easy loans for citizens in order that they contribute dynamically to development.

Priority has been given to subsidizing the deserved who are included in social security system, increasing the number of beneficiaries, asserting job creation for citizens through supporting Saudization programs, and establishing centers for technical and technological training throughout the Kingdom.

Dear Brothers:

Allah has heaped honor on us to serve the Two Holy Mosques, hence that service is a duty, prestige, an honor and a prerequisite this country and its leadership abide by, in recognition of Allah's generosity to our country for He bestowed it of abundant benediction and blessings. In that we are proceeding on the Kingdom's religious responsibility; subsequently, we have laid down the foundation stone for expanding the Grand Mosque, inaugurated a number of improvement projects in the Two Holy Mosques, praying to Allah to make them of benevolence in serving Islam and all Muslims.

The expansion of the Two Holy Mosques and the Jamarat Bridge as well as the launching of the holy sites train are but embodied examples of these improvement projects so that pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors of the Holy Places find convenience and tranquility while performing the rituals.

That also is only a duty we owe to Allah.

With the will of Allah, we will continue our strenuous work to serve the Two Holy Mosques and the holy sites, and to stay vigilant to secure the convenience of noble pilgrims and Umrah performers with whatever wealth and effort; we believe it is our religious duty to do so, and with it we are seeking to the rewards of Allah.

Dear Brothers:

We spared no effort in the development of all sectors of our armed forces through training, enhancement, equipment, and drawing on foreign experience and expertise, and introducing modern military technology to our defense systems.

Maintaining the independence of the Kingdom, its sovereignty and its achievements are our inevitable priority which we will not compromise.

This leads us to move forward in the development of our armed forces in all sectors, and in equipping them for the defense of our homeland against any attack, with the aid of God Almighty and then with the hands of our sons who are able to protect the country and maintain its accumulated gains and achievements in record time.

Dear Brothers:

I always assure that the citizen is the basis of development and its objective at the same time; it is natural that, for a long time now, the State has always taken care of the educational aspect, which is one of the pillars of development.

Thus, the State has given a growing interest in educational and cultural institutions, and is building the edifices of science and knowledge through increased spending on building schools and universities in all regions of the Kingdom, and the development of public and university educational programs, and the expansion of universities to cover all parts of the Kingdom, as well as the provision of educational services and training of the Saudi academic cadres to give Saudi students the care and attention required.

As we are heading towards the economy of knowledge and investment in future generations (the human element is concerned with training, education and qualifying), you will notice that the items allocated to the education budget are the largest financial items allocated by the State for this important sector.

For the sake of expanding tests of knowledge and scientific expertise to our sons and daughters the students, we have extended the foreign scholarship programs to include several other countries in the world, and we also have ordered to add our sons and daughters who are studying at their own expense to the scholarship program once they have met its conditions; we seek to create the proper atmosphere for them so that they dedicate themselves for knowledge and to diversify their knowledge for qualifying nationals that are well trained professionally and technically.

The upgrading of the developmental status of women is not only through the vision that believes in the need for interaction of all members of the community in the effort of development; perhaps access to the comprehensive development requires a broader participation of Saudi women by developing their capacities, and removing the obstacles they may encounter, to be a productive factor in economic and development activities, in accordance with the Islamic Shari'a.

Dear Brothers:

Our aspirations do not stop at the transfer of your country -God willing- to the ranks of advanced countries in the field of service and communications sectors.

Therefore, attention has been paid to the construction and re-modernization of the infrastructure of the country through the communications network, transport, airports, ports, roads, that they be in accordance with the objectives of development plans, and fit into the latest standards of engineering and construction, enhancing opportunities for national and foreign investments to participate effectively and productively in the overall growth we are experiencing now.

We also are continuing -with God's help and guidance- in the development of different sectors of the State at the judiciary and justice levels, and the introduction of modern technology, and application of electronic transactions for all state institutions to improve performance and keep pace with developments in the world in the field of management, especially with regard to programs of information technology.

Dear Brothers:

Although the world is suffering from the ramifications of the economic crisis, the balanced financial and economic policies applied by the State, and the facilitation of the adopted business regulations and mechanisms in the financial and investment transactions have saved us the negative effects of this international crisis, even strengthened the position of the Kingdom among the countries which attracted global investments, prepared it to become a fertile and safe oasis for foreign private capital.

Therefore, we are determined to spend on huge and large-scale projects at the economic level in order to distance the Kingdom from any impact of the slowing global economy.

We will continue -with God's help- in the development of existing systems and will develop appropriate legislation to enable the growth of national economy, diversification and expansion, in addition to providing opportunities for citizens and local and foreign investors to be partners in the development and well-being.

Dear Brothers:

With the grace of Allah, the State Budget for the fiscal year 1432-1433H., has been declared in line with the strategic objectives of the 9th development plan to support sustainable development, improvement of the structure of Saudi economy, raising of the citizen's standard of living, and the striking of a balanced development among the regions of the Kingdom. The total expenditure reaches SR 580 billion, an increase of about 7 per cent over the last year.

About SR 150 billion has been earmarked for education, higher education and manpower training sector, an increase of 8 per cent over what has been allocated to the sector last year.

Meanwhile, SR 68,7 billion has been earmarked to support health services and social development sector, an increase of 12 per cent; SR 24,5 billion has been allocated for the municipal services sector, an increase of 13 per cent; and SR 25,2 billion for transport and communications sector, an increase of 5 per cent.

Last year's budget has made a surplus, the 7th in a row, since 2003, and this budget is considered to be the biggest and the highest in the history of the Kingdom. It came to stress the strength and solidness of the Saudi economy, notably at a time of economic changes witnessed by the whole world.

Dear Brothers:

What binds us to our Gulf, Arab and Islamic surroundings goes beyond history and geography; it is the bond of religion, destiny and the Ummah. These bonds are deeply rooted relations we spare no effort to reinforce. At the domain of Gulf cooperation, which moves on steady and clear steps, the Kingdom tries perpetually to consolidate its strategic presence in this geographic grouping, in understanding the common characteristics that are binding it to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Member States and the shared goal that binds their peoples.

Security of the GCC Member States is indivisible of the Kingdom's. In this context, it is an opportunity to express relief as security and stability in the Kingdom of Bahrain has been restored, and to renew the Kingdom's rejection to any foreign intervention that may touch its security, stability and national unity.

GCC experience and what has been achieved under its umbrella of agreements and pioneering projects are the best of proofs of our profound desire to continue understanding and cooperating with our brothers in the GCC member states. What has been achieved of integration and coordination, up to now, is aiming at achieving the interests of the GCC peoples.

The Kingdom has approved Gulf Monetary Union Accord, contributed actively to achieving Gulf common defense integration to create a capable military balance -with the will of God- to protect Gulf security and maintain its stability. We appreciate GCC support for our initiative that calls for establishing a counter-terrorism international center.

We cannot, in this juncture, ignore to welcome the establishment of the UN sponsored counter-terrorism center which culminates the efforts exerted during the Counterterrorism International Conference held in Riyadh in 2005, where we suggested establishing a UN sponsored world center to counter terrorism. Owing to our belief in the importance of joint international endeavors to counter terrorism and in activating the Center's role, the Kingdom has contributed $10 million.

At the Arab arena and against what the regional stage witnessed of events and developments, we are hopeful that security and stability may prevail in our Arab world. On this, we assert our respect of and support to peoples options, while we resolutely reject any external interference in our Arab issues.

What is taking place of violent incidents in Yemen hurts us, especially that it led to deaths and casualties. I call on all involved parties to keep restraint and resort to wisdom in order to spare Yemen of the danger of sliding into more violence and killings. We envision that the Gulf-sponsored initiative is still the only way to solve the Yemeni crisis, and to arrest deterioration of the situation in a way that saves the Republic of Yemen's security, stability and unity.

The Kingdom's good offices, always exerted in the interest of Arab-Arab reconciliation, aim at unifying the Arab ranks and both serve and consolidate Arab interests. Our trips and visits to some Arab capitals, last year, were aimed at creating the proper atmosphere and mend fences and to support their causes; hence the Kingdom's efforts contributed to achieving civil peace in Lebanon, and we still support its security, unity, Arabism and stability.

We, also, aspire that Iraq continue to be an Arab, Islamic, united and independent political entity serving all its sects and sons, and that it remains secure against external interventions in its internal affairs.

Dear Brothers:

On the foreign policy, priorities of the Kingdom are the support of solidarity and joint action among Islamic countries and the improvement of ways of cooperation among them.

When the Muslim world becomes a partner and a positive and active factor in the international political system and its economic development, the impact of its participation and the products of its interaction will be channeled into the interest of our first cause, Palestine, and they will support and mobilize international support for it in international forums, particularly at the current moment as Palestine presented its request for full membership of the United Nations; this is a just cause of a people seeking to achieve their dream of establishing their independent Palestinian state with Al-Quds as its capital, and to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

The Kingdom has been appreciated and admired by the world for its emergency aid to people in need in times of disasters and adversities, and perhaps the most recent great humanitarian stances through which your country, government and people, stood by our brothers, are the cases of Pakistan and Somalia, where such good initiatives had great and wide reactions. What we are doing towards our brothers aims to alleviate their suffering, and relieve their distress, and this is based on the principles of our religion and sense of our responsibility.

On external affairs, our policy is based on expanding the prospects for political and economic cooperation with the countries of the world, and perhaps the active participation made by the Kingdom in the meetings of the Group of Twenty (G-20), which were held in Canada and South Korea recently, reflect the place the Kingdom occupies and the important role it plays in this international grouping, which is characterized by its rapid ability to stimulate the world economy as a whole.

As for the initiatives launched by your country -considered as pioneering always in what is in the interest of all humanity- are still appreciated and respected by the world, for these encouraged to enact financial laws to ensure the an end to the global economic crisis, or at least mitigate the effects of its brunt on the economies of the States.

Dear Brothers:

The Kingdom has continued to pursue an oil policy based on taking into account the interests of present and future generations, and to use the wealth that God Almighty have granted us efficiently, and to us it for the economic and social development.

The Kingdom also went on adopting moderate policies based on market stability, the avoidance of negative fluctuations and the taking into account the common interests of producers and consumers, as well as the safety of the global economy and its development, especially the economies of energy-poorer developing countries.

While the Kingdom considers that the stability of the world is based on its dependence on fossil fuels, especially petroleum for the next decades to meet demand for energy for global growth and prosperity, it encourages at the same time the scientific discoveries of the renewable energy and the improvement of using the fossil fuels and to be an environment friendly.

In recognition of such complementary relationship, we have established King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) for the development of renewable and nuclear energy to supplement our resources of oil and gas.

We also confirm the keenness of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that international peace and security prevail in the Middle East and the rest of the world due to the Kingdom's leading role in the stability and achievement of prosperity for the region's countries.

Although we stress the right of everyone to the peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with the supervision and control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, we support the various steps and actions necessary to take for the Middle East to be a zone free of weapons of mass destruction as stipulated in UN resolutions which are in urgent need for concerted international efforts to activate and develop mechanisms for their application.

Dear Brothers:

Our call for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and followers of religions stems from our belief in dialogue as the optimum path to solve our different international disputes, peacefully.

I'm certain that the dialogue among civilizations and followers of religions is the optimum way to thwart the opportunity for various extremist calls issued by widely spread groups in numerous states in the world, whether in the name of religion or the name of ethnicity, for one goal: to poison relationships among peoples and governments and to destroy human participation in saving civilization and communications among their followers, in order to promote clashes and wars that exhausted the world for centuries. We, on the contrary, believe that what binds the great majority of the world peoples is more than what set them apart.

Proceeding from the moderation of our Islam and its tolerant Shari'ah, we have directed, in our message to the Grand Mufti, to curb Fatwa issuance, for we have monitored intolerable excesses, and it is within our legitimate duty to stand against them. We asserted that anyone who may transgress that limit, shall be held accountable and receive the deterring legitimate punishment, whosoever he might be, because the interest of religion and the motherland is above any other consideration.

The dialogue that we are calling for, is dictated by the current circumstances of our civilization and it would spare the entire world -with will of Allah- tragedies of clashes and disputes among civilizations and religions, and lead the people to peacefully co-exist and think of the common divisors that bind rather than diving us by plunging into the differences that saw disunity.

From this august Majlis, I call on the world to understand the importance of dialogue, to adopt it as a basic approach for people rapprochement, and to promote human relations among individuals and governments.

Dear Brothers:

I would like to thank Majlis Al-Shoura for its obvious efforts and the continuous work you are embarking on, studying regulations, annual reports and submitting suggestions and providing consultancy; these are indeed much appreciated by all. I praise whatever comes to me from your august Majlis, and aspire that you may exert more and more to serve your blessed nation and loyal people.

I highly value, too, your strenuous offices -perfectly exerted by the Speaker, members and staff- in introducing our country's parliamentary experience to the international stage, to show the complimentary role Majlis Al-Shoura plays in reflecting, crystal clear, the opinion of the Kingdom towards various regional and international issues, as well as in contributing to exchanging points of view on pivotal issues that are of interest to the Kingdom in particular and the region in general. This fact plainly asserts the presence of Majlis Al-Shoura on the map of political national action. Your honorable participation in and representation of your country are, always, a matter of recognition to us.

Dear brothers:

You are entrusted with a sublime message. May Allah bless your endeavors, and lead us to the good for the country and the citizens.

May peace and Allah's mercy and blessings be upon you.

On the other hand, U.S. White House announced on Sunday its welcome of the declaration of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud that women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will become full members in Majlis Al-Shura as of the next session in addition to that they will be entitled to participate in municipal elections in the future.

A statement issued by the Office of National Security Council Spokesman of the White House Tommy Vietor pointed out that these decisions announced by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques recognize the significant contributions being made by women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the service of their society and open new ways for them to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and society.

He said that the new reforms announced by the King yesterday represent important steps forward in expanding the roles of women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton welcomed the decision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Sunday on granting Saudi women the right to participate in Majlis Al-Shura and to vote and stand as candidates in municipal elections.

Michael Mann, a Spokesman for Ashton said in a press statement yesterday that Ashton stressed the importance that all countries in the world support women's participation in parliamentary life, noting that the King's decision is an important step forward.