Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz today chaired the regular weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers, which expressed its concern and deep sorrow at the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories as a result of Israel's continuing crimes against the Palestinian people, notably the assassination of Shaikh Ahmed Yassin in an outrageous aggression, the primary goal of which is to abort international endeavors to revive the Middle East peace process. Saudi Arabia strongly condemns this criminal act of assassination that contravenes all international and humanitarian norms, laws and rules, and calls on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities towards the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, provide protection for the Palestinian people, and bring to a halt Israel's continued offensive policy and disregard for the lives of the Palestinian people, a policy that will only lead to more violence and greater deterioration in the occupied Arab territories and obstruct any effort aimed at putting an end to this bloody conflict. The Kingdom expressed its condolences to Palestine's President Yasser Arafat, to the Palestinian people, and to the family of the slain Shaikh Ahmed Yassin.
Crown Prince Abdullah then briefed the Cabinet on recent contacts with leaders and envoys of brotherly and friendly countries, including President of Syria Bashar Al-Assad and President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski. The talks covered international developments, particularly Israel’s continued aggression against the Palestinian people, as well as bilateral relations.
Turning to domestic issues, the Cabinet passed a number of resolutions, including approval of the separation of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs into two: the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Social Affairs. Accordingly, the Manpower Council was dissolved, and its authority transferred to the new Ministry of Labor, which will also run all activities relating to labor and employee affairs that are currently managed by the Department of Labor in the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, including enforcement of relevant regulations, labor disputes, recruitment of manpower within the private sector, and recruitment of employees from abroad. The new Ministry of Social Affairs will undertake responsibilities that include activities currently managed by the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI), as well as welfare, low-cost housing, the affairs of cooperatives and charities, social studies and research.
Among other resolutions passed are amendment of regulations governing the performance of the organization which supervises transportation of pilgrims, assigning the Ministry of Pilgrimage to devise appropriate mechanisms to include small enterprises and individuals as well as large companies in the provision of such transportation; and authorization for the Minister of Foreign Affairs or his deputy to sign a cooperation agreement in the economic, commercial, industrial and technological fields with the government of the Federal Republic of Austria.