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Entries in Saudi Arabia (133)


Syria Today: An Opposition in Disarray?

Opposition Spokesman Louay al-Safi (Akin Celiktas/Reuters)Iranian Lines of Credit to Damascus

The Syrian Central Bank has said that Iran has opened two lines of credit totaling $4 billion to Damascus and plans on opening up a third.

"Iran continues to support Syria, by opening one line of credit worth a billion dollars to finance the import of different items and another line of credit worth three billion dollars to finance the purchase of petrol and associated products," Central Bank Governor Adib Mayale said.

Mayale said Iran was considering an additional loan of $3 billion to bolster the Syrian economy amid war and international sanctions.

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Syria Today: US and Russia Manoeuvre Over Support for Assad

1930 GMT: Even Government Sources Admit Baniyas is Different.

The Baniyas massacre on Syria's coast may be a singular event that stands out as being dramatically different than all the other massacres. For starters, the scale of the massacre is at least among the worst of all of Syria's massacres, though some reports suggest that it may be magnitudes worse than any event that has taken place since the start of this crisis. Also, this incident had a clearly sectarian nature to it that is not disputed - Alawite militias loyal to President Assad targeted Sunnis, many of them children, and killed them en masse. In a thorough, nuanced, and eloquent description of the massacre, the New York Times' Anne Barnard and Hania Mourtada point out that the Assad government typically blames civilian deaths on "terrorists" even when their own forces and loyalists are implicated. This time, however, even the government admitted that its people were responsible for a mass killing, though they tell a different tale than Baniyas's residents:

Multiple video images that residents said they had recorded in Bayda and Ras al-Nabeh — of small children lying where they died, some embracing one another or their parents — were so searing that even some government supporters rejected Syrian television’s official version of events, that the army had “crushed a number of terrorists.”

One prominent pro-government writer, Bassam al-Qadi, took the unusual, risky step of publicly blaming loyalist gunmen for the killings and accusing the government of “turning a blind eye to criminals and murderers in the name of ‘defending the homeland.’ “

The article chronicles some of the evidence and eyewitness reports. It also argues that there were those who were trying to break with the sectarian nature of the killings even while the violence was ongoing. In the end, however, it's a must-read article on a story that has been under-reported.

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Iran Live: Another Move on Syria

Presidents Ahmadinejad & Assad1540 GMT: Nuclear Watch

Iranian media report that Iran and the United Nations nuclear watchdog will have further talks over Tehran's disputed nuclear program around May 21 in Vienna, Iranian media reported on Monday.

There was no immediate confirmation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), leaving unclear whether a firm date for the next meeting had already been agreed.

Iran's Mehr and ISNA news agencies initially reported that the meeting would be held on May 21, but ISNA later quoted an unnamed official as saying this was only a "preliminary agreement" and that the date could be moved by one or two days.

1230 GMT: Sanctions Watch

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has indicated that the European Union will not be imposing new sanctions on Tehran.

Speaking before an EU Foreign Ministers' meeting in Luxembourg, Hague said, "We must maintain (current) sanctions pressure, not proposing new ones."

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Syria Exclusive: New Arms for Insurgents --- The Case of the Croatian Multiple Rocket Launcher

A rebel spokesman shows off a new weapon. Our sources suggest that this is a Croatian Rak-12.

UPDATE: This weapon has been spotted on the battlefield. Scroll to the bottom for details.

To date, most of the insurgent arsenal in Syria has been captured from the regime's army. Other arms came from Croatia, as part of an international effort to bolster the insurgency. On Friday, we saw a new, mysterious weapon.

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Saudi Arabia (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Prosecutor Demands "Death by Crucifixion" for Dissident Cleric

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr1438 GMT: Bahrain: Twenty-one medics, arrested at their hospital amid pro-reform protests in April 2011, have had their convictions quashed.

The doctors and nurses were found guilty last November of misdemeanours after treating protesters injured by police clearing the camp at the iconic Pearl Roundabout.

The medics alleged they were tortured and coerced into making false confessions. The confessions were used to convict them before military tribunals.

Twenty-eight other medical staff were prosecuted. Three remain in jail and several of those acquitted have not been allowed to return to their work as doctors.


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Saudi Arabia Feature: Regime's Historic Decision "To Ban Everything" (Karl ReMarks)

In an unprecedented move in modern governance, Saudi Arabia announced today that it will introduce a ban on everything. The announcement has sent shockwaves throughout the kingdom and the Middle East, leaving many governments wondering ‘why didn’t we think of that first?’ The new rule is expected to revolutionise governance in this part of the world, and may indeed have wider repercussions.

The announcement was made early on Sunday morning by a Saudi official in a press conference, expected to be the last of its kind because press briefings will automatically be banned when the ban takes effect.

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Iran Live Coverage: Supreme Leader Strikes a Defiant Pose

See also Iran Live Coverage: Supreme Leader Announces a "Political and Economic Epic"

1255 GMT:Your Friday Prayers Update. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami had the podium today and he used it for a jab at President Ahmadinejad.

Commenting on the upcoming Presidential elections, Khatami said officials must observe "Islamic ethics" and avoid misuse of authority during the process.


When selecting candidates, national and public interests were preferable to factional ones, Khatami added. "Whoever wants to be president of his country should be at the forefront of ethics,"

Khatami said that candidates must not use public funds.

"None of the three branches of the Islamic government should encourage or support a particular candidate," he added.

In contrast, Fars News English focuses its attention on rhetoric about “Arrogant Powers” and Syria.

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Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Dozens Arrested in Cairo Protests

See also Turkey Special: Kurdish Leader Ocalan "Nearing Deal" with Erdogan
Syria Live Coverage: Opposition Gathers to Name A Prime Minister
Sunday's Iraq (and Beyond) Coverage: At Least 10 Killed in Basra Bomb

1425 GMT: Egypt. Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ossama Kamal has said that the Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ministry will be unable to provide power plants with enough fuel in forthcoming months.

Kamal, in a meeting with the Egyptian Cabinet, said, “There is a 25% in fuel insufficiency for power plants in the country."

In an attempt to reduce the shortage, the Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ministry announced a bid to import 500 million cubic feet of fuel daily to meet the needs of power plants.

“Egypt has a dire need to import 750 million cubic feet of gas daily to meet needs of power plants and factories,” officials from the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) said. “A total of 5.75 billion cubic feet of gas is being produced on a daily basis, but what is actually consumed is 6.5 billion cubic feet daily."

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Syria Live Coverage: The Saudi Support of the Insurgency

See also Syria Audio Analysis: Is Assad's Military Crumbling? --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24
Syria Feature: "Hundreds" of Saudis --- and Lots of Money --- for the Insurgency
Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Mubarak's Police Behind Almost 900 Killings of Protesters in 2011 Uprising
Wednesday's Syria Live Coverage: Turkish Special Forces Enter the Country

Anhar Kocheva (see 0815 GMT)1935 GMT: Death Toll Rises. According to the Local Coordination Committees, today's death toll has risen to 126:

35 martyrs were reported in Tal Brak in Hasakeh in a massacre that was committed by the regime forces; 34 in Damascus and its Suburbs; 18 in Daraa, 11 in Homs; 11 in Aleppo; 6 in Raqqa; 5 in Hama; 4 in Idlib; 1 in Qunaitera; and 1 in Jableh.

See our note about the casualty numbers published by the LCC.

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Syria Feature: "Hundreds" of Saudis --- and Lots of Money --- for the Insurgency (Erlich)

Footage of a Saudi fighter in Syria

Following a circuitous route from here up through Turkey or Jordan and then crossing a lawless border, hundreds of young Saudis are secretly making their way into Syria to join extremist groups fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Global Post has learned.

With the tacit approval from the House of Saud, and financial support from wealthy Saudi elites, the young men take up arms in what Saudi clerics have called a “jihad,” or “holy war” against the Assad regime.

Based on a month of reporting in the region and in Washington, over a dozen sources have confirmed that wealthy Saudis, as well as the government, are arming some Syrian rebel groups. Saudi and Syrian sources confirm that hundreds of Saudis are joining the rebels, but the government denies any sponsoring role.

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