Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz chaired the weekly Cabinet meeting today in Riyadh. The King briefed the Cabinet on his meetings with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa. The meetings focused on the latest regional and international developments, in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the situation in Iraq and the aftermath of UN investigator Detlev Mehlis’ report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri. King Abdullah emphasized the important roles played by the UN and the Arab League in enhancing peace and security in the Arab world and around the globe, and renewed the Kingdom’s support for all efforts towards regional and international stability and security.
In a statement to the press following the meeting, Minister of Culture and Information Iyad Madani said that the Cabinet reviewed King Abdullah’s inauguration of the International Energy Forum Secretariat headquarters on Saturday. The Cabinet commended the King’s speech at the opening ceremony for the IEFS headquarters, noting that the speech clearly highlighted the Kingdom’s oil policy as well as its interest in a stable oil market and meeting market demands. In addition, the speech also urged consuming countries to reconsider taxes on oil products and their responsibility for market speculation. The Cabinet also praised Saudi Arabia’s concern with achieving reasonable and fair oil prices, and its desire to provide sufficient oil to consumers provided that the increase in production capacity does not harm fields for the next generation. Finally, the Cabinet said it hoped that the Forum would enhance cooperation and understanding between producers and consumers.
Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz then briefed the Cabinet on his visit to Egypt and his discussions with President Hosni Mubarak about bilateral relations as well as Arab and international developments, particularly the situation in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On Iraq, the Cabinet said it hopes the National Reconciliation Conference in Cairo would achieve a reconciliation among Iraqi factions, a prerequisite for the success of the current political process and the primary guarantee for maintaining Iraq’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. The Cabinet also lifted economic sanctions on Iraq, noting that the conditions leading the imposition of the sanctions no longer existed.
The Cabinet also expressed great pleasure over Saudi Arabia’s entry into the World Trade Organization, commenting that it is necessary for all sectors of the economy to enact the requirements of the WTO.
Turning to domestic matters, King Abdullah expressed his appreciation for the citizens of Makkah following a festival there. Saudi Arabia will continue to focus on the development and service of Islam’s holy places, he said.
The Cabinet also issued a number of decisions. It approved the Eighth Development Plan for the fiscal years 2004-2005 to 2008-2009. Highlights of the plan include improving the standard of living and job opportunities for Saudis, continuing development in the areas of education and training, and expanding the applied sciences and technology sector. The plan’s main objectives are to diversify the economy and enhance economic competitiveness by focusing on strategic industries, especially energy and its byproducts by eliminating obstacles to investment and expediting privatization. The plan also aims to increase the private sector’s contribution to economic development and increase the participation of Saudi women in the economy.
The Cabinet approved a civil aviation tariff bill that requires planes landing in Saudi territory to pay official landing tariffs as well as an electricity system that that increases protection of consumer rights. The Cabinet also approved several appointments, including Prince Khalid bin Faisal bin Turki as adviser at National Guard headquarters; Abdulghani bin Hamid Khallaf as assistant director-general for the national information center at the Ministry of Interior; and Othman bin Abdullah Al-Thabet as director-general of the Minister’s office at the Ministry of Higher Education.