Sweden tries to end maelstrom over Wallstrom

Updated 22 March 2015
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Sweden tries to end maelstrom over Wallstrom

Sweden’s Parliament summoned Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom to formally appear in an investigation into the crisis she caused with her criticism of Saudi Arabia, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported on Saturday.
Swedish-Saudi trade ties have been greatly affected by Wallstrom’s statement and are now uncertain after the Saudi decision to halt visas for Swedish businessmen and not renew expired visas.
Wallstrom tried to back down on her statement and said Saudi Arabia is a pivotal country in the Middle East and its stand is very important to Sweden and EU countries.
In her statement before Parliament, Wallstrom said: “Saudi Arabia is a member of the G-20 countries and holds a key to many international issues, and is also one of the important donors in the world, not to mention its role in international efforts to combat terrorism.”
She said the cooperation agreements between the two countries in other areas would not be affected by the decision to not renew the military agreement between her country and Saudi Arabia.
Wallstrom stressed the respect of Sweden for Islam as a global religion, and its contribution to human civilization.
Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Swedish Royal Court said King Carl XVI Gustaf wants to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis and he will meet Wallstrom on Monday.
According to Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Erik Boman, the meeting comes at an appropriate time.
“It is important to have a dialogue and good relations between nations,” said the king.
Separately, on Friday, the Comoros declared its support to Saudi Arabia in its row with Sweden.
In a statement, the Comoros expressed its rejection and condemnation of anti-Saudi remarks by Wallstrom.
“The Swedish foreign minister’s remarks are deemed interference in internal affairs of the Kingdom,” said the Ministry of Foreign Relations of the Comoros. “(Wallstrom’s) abusive remarks are against 1.5 billion Muslims of the world and not just against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said a statement carried by the SPA. It said the Comoros called on all nations of the world “to respect the values of coexistence, tolerance of cultures and respect for all religions.”


Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019
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Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


EVENTS WATCH

1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.


The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.