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Issue 202 - 04 August 1987

INADEQUACIES EXPOSED

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At the end of their recent meeting in Taif, having held an "open" session for more than a month, the GCC foreign ministers welcomed the UN Security Council resolution on the Iran-Iraq war and urged the world community to "take positive attitudes" that would bring "peace, security and stability in the Gulf region". The ministers, meeting as the GCC Ministerial Council, also confirmed support for the arrangements made by Kuwait to preserve its safety and "hailed" the positive stance adopted by Iraq in relation to the Security Council resolution .

Issue 201 - 21 July 1987

HAJ SEASON

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More than two million pilgrims are expected to come to Saudi Arabia to take part in this year's Haj, currently in progress. A considerable government administrative effort is under way to provide pilgrims with essential services and facilities. As well as the 22m one-litre plastic packs of iced drinking water provided by the government for distribution at the holy sites, the authorities have also mounted substantial security precautions against any political disruption of the ceremonies.

Issue 200 - 07 July 1987

RAISING THE STAKES

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Kuwait's Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister, Shaikh Sabah al Ahmad, set off at the end of last month on a tour of the other member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The avowed reason for the trip, according to the official Kuwaiti news agency, was to explain "the dangerous situation in the Arab Gulf region, caused by the continuation of the Iran-Iraq war that is threatening the freedom and safety of navigation in the territorial waters of the Gulf". Since every member state of the GCC has officially, openly and frequently pronounced on the grave dangers of the Iran-Iraq war and the GCC collectively makes constant reference to the same subject, Shaikh Sabah's tour could have appeared, in its announced purpose, to have been quite unnecessary. The official news agency statement was nothing more than a bit of public relations Dim-flam, designed to avoid giving a more accurate account for Shaikh Sabah's travels.

Issue 199 - 23 June 1987

MORAL IMPERATIVES

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Social corruption has become a prevalent obsession of the Saudi authorities. Scarcely a speech or an address goes by from Interior Minister, Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz, or his deputy, Prince Ahmed, without a warning on the subject of narcotics, AIDS, foreign travel or the moral protection of youth. A survey of official statements and press editorials reveals a growing concern with the moral and physical health of the kingdom's population.

Issue 198 - 09 June 1987

PRIORITIES - AND PROBLEMS

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The end of the holy month of Ramadan occasioned a summary of Saudi Arabia's foreign policy from King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah. Celebrating the festival of 'Id al Fitr which concludes Ramadan, King Fahd delivered a television address which emphasised Saudi Arabia's chief external political concerns: Arab unity, the solidarity of the Muslim world, the resolution of the Iran-Iraq war, the conflict in Lebanon, the war in Afghanistan and - most of all - the Palestinian problem.

Issue 197 - 26 May 1987

THE CONFLICT SPREADS

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King Fahd performed a valuable service when he brokered the recent meeting between President Chadli Benjedid of Algeria and King Hassan of Morocco. The two North African countries have been on bad terms with each other over various issues for several years, and to have brought the two leaders together was a creditable political achievement by the Saudi monarch. However, the mere fact of their meeting did not produce solutions to any or all of their joint problems and, since then, there has been no suggestion that any further negotiations are in progress on matters of dispute.

Issue 196 - 12 May 1987

DIVISIONS AND DIVERSIONS

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There was no official comment from Saudi Arabia on the PLO's reunification congress in Algiers last month. This looks rather odd at first sight, given the kingdom's constant reassertion of its interest in rebuilding and maintaining Arab unity. What deeply disturbs the Saudis, however, is the growing possibility that estrangement of the PLO moderates from Egypt and Jordan will create new rifts in the Arab world - and dash all hopes of forming a united front at the long-promised forthcoming Arab summit conference.

Issue 195 - 28 April 1987

PREFERRED PARTNERS

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Prince Sultan, Minister of Defence, referring to King Fahd's recent state visit to France, has stressed the close cooperation in military matter between Saudi Arabia and France. Speaking at a recent graduation ceremony at the King Abdul Aziz Military Academy, Prince Sultan said that France had expressed readiness to cooperate with the kingdom in the field of armaments and other defence sectors.

Issue 194 - 14 April 1987

AN ESSENTIAL PRELIMINARY

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Leo Tindemans, the Belgian foreign minister and currently President of the European Economic Community Council of Ministers, is to visit several Middle East capitals in the coming few weeks to try to inject some impetus in the moves to hold an international conference on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Issue 193 - 31 March 1987

ULTIMATE IRONIES

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The ultimate irony of the arms-for-Iran funds-for-Contras scandal must have been reached with the disclosure that a large slice of the money, perhaps between $2m and $3m, raised by the sale of US arms to Iran. found its way not to the US-supported Nicaraguan rebels, but to the Global Islamic Movement, an organisation controlled by the designated successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri. According to accounts published by the New York Times, drawing on the latest confessions of the Iranian go-between, Manuchur Ghorbanliar, US funds were diverted ("for services rendered") to the Swiss bank account of the Global Islamic Movement. This is an organisation which, amongst its various activities, funds those specialists of the political kidnap operation, the Hizbollah, Party of God, in Lebanon.

Issue 192 - 16 March 1987

CREDIBILITY PROBLEM

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The Tower Commission report on the White House's dealings with Iran in the arms-for-hostages scandal has enmeshed Saudi Arabia in further problems. The Saudis have consistently denied they had anything to do with the tortuous transactions undertaken by Adnan Khashoggi, Manuchehr Ghorbanifar, Colonel Oliver North and the rest of the shady crew at the National Security Council. There is no evidence to prove them wrong in their assertions. But all along there have been worrying rumours that Saudi Arabia channelled funds to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Issue 191 - 02 March 1987

A SLENDER CHANCE

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The move of large numbers of Syrian army troops into West Beirut is the almost exclusive focus of the Saudi Arabian government's current foreign policy concerns. The kingdom's intense interest in Lebanon's affairs is, for historic and legitimate reasons, more than just one Arab country's understandable curiosity about the circumstances in another Arab state.

Issue 190 - 16 February 1987

AN UNLIKELY TALE

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The convoluted tales engendered by the Iran arms scandal which have some Saudi Arabian connection continue to proliferate. The latest, uncovered as a result of the investigations in the US into the provenance of the Iran arms affair, says that Saudi Arabia agreed in 1981 to channel funds to resistance movements in Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua in order to ensure the sale by the US of the advanced AWACS airborne early warning system. The story, carried in some detail in the New York Times, says the agreement was drawn up by top officials of both countries and was approved by King Fahd.

Issue 189 - 02 February 1987

THE SOVIET OPTION

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The dispatch of Saudi Arabian oil minister Hisham Nazer by Opec to visit Egypt, Norway and the USSR to win support for the Organisation's oil price and production policy was a shrewd - and successful - move by the oil producers' cartel. The Saudi minister was ostensibly wearing his Opec hat and speaking solely on Opec's behalf; nothing was said either by Opec or by Saudi Arabia - about the possible national political implications of his three-day sojourn in Moscow.

Issue 188 - 19 January 1987

SAUDIS FINALLY SHOW THEIR HAND

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On the very last day of 1986, Saudi Arabia at last got a budget to cover the next 12 months. And despite all the predictions and endless speculation, the details still held some surprises. The overall level of spending was much higher than expected, but for the first time ever the kingdom openly admitted in advance that it would have to dig into official reserves to bridge the expected budget deficit.