Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz today chaired the regular weekly session of the Council of Ministers, and expressed his appreciation and that of the Saudi people for the continued courage shown by the security forces and military personnel in pursuing and fighting terrorists - murderous criminals and deviant evil forces who are terrorizing peaceful people and killing the innocent. The King noted the address made by Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to all citizens, security forces and military personnel, praising their efforts and sacrifices in defense of their beliefs and their homeland, and their united stance against corrupting aggressors. He stressed the role of the citizens in supporting the security forces, by not sympathizing with or giving shelter to the terrorists.
King Fahd went on to underline the depth of relations between Saudi Arabia and its sister Arab states, and the Kingdom's constant efforts to boost these relations and find a unified Arab stance to face today's challenges. In this respect, he referred to the Crown Prince's visits to Syria, Egypt and Morocco, meeting with the leaders of these countries and achieving positive results in the service of the Arab and Islamic worlds. The visits, he said, underscore the Kingdom's focus on the importance of adherence to and activation of Arab joint action to serve all the peoples and states of the Arab world, and expressed appreciation of the positive response to the Crown Prince's ideas and views on the affairs of the region in general and on those of Iraq and Palestine in particular.
The cabinet then discussed the outcome of the meeting in Cairo of the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria, in which was proposed the preparation of a working paper on activation of joint Arab work to boost the Arab League and to keep it as a framework for united Arab action.
The cabinet praised the statement issued by the Council of Senior ulama (religious scholars) stressing that acts of subversion, bombing, killing, and destruction of property, are serious crimes: crimes calling for deterrent legal punishment in accordance with Shariah [Islamic Law]. The cabinet also praised the Council's denunciation of irregular fatwas [legal opinions] that justify or encourage criminality that results in highly dangerous and deplorable acts; and warned against committing the great sin of providing shelter or refuge to those who carry them out.
Turning to domestic issues, the cabinet passed a number of resolutions, including endorsement of a decision issued by the Supreme Council for Petroleum and Mineral Affairs on regulation and pricing of gas supplies, for which a royal decree is being drafted; approval for the natural gas investment tax bill to be part of the income tax system that is also being studied; endorsement of an anti-smoking bill, stipulating a fine for those found smoking in public places, and banning the growing or processing of tobacco, the law to be effective one year after publication in the official Gazette; approval of a new system of measures and controls to counter money laundering; endorsement of a draft agreement on cultural and educational cooperation with the People's Republic of China signed in Beijing on December 24, 2002; authorization for the Minister of Finance or his deputy to sign a draft agreement with the Federal Republic of Russia on investment protection; and authorization for the President of King Abdulaziz City for Sciences and Technology (KACST) or his deputy to sign a draft memorandum of understanding for scientific and technological cooperation with the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.