Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince arrives in Washington on official visit

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrived at Washington to begin the third leg of his foreign tour. (SPA)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince arrives in Washington on official visit

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrived in Washington on Tuesday morning to start his first official visit to the country as heir to the throne, Saudi state-news channel Al-Ekhbariya reported.
The Crown Prince was received by Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman and the US State Department's Ambassador to the US, Sean Oler, as well as several other high-level delegates.
The trip follows visits to both Egypt and the UK earlier this month, which led to a string of political and economic agreements signed between the kingdom and two of its key allies.
But the visit to the US aims to build on what is possibly Saudi Arabia’s most important relationship, one which has been strengthened with the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House.
The Royal Court said the crown prince had left Saudi Arabia and that during the visit he will meet Trump and a number of officials “to discuss bilateral relations and issues of common interest,” Saudi Press Agency reported.
The meeing with the US president will take place on Tuesday for talks, the White House, said.
Christopher Henzel, the Charge d’Affaires at the US embassy in Riyadh said he was confident Trump and the crown prince would “enjoy open and candid discussions on a variety of issues.”
High on the agenda is Iran, and how to rein in its influence in the Middle East - something both men believe is one of the biggest threats to the region.
Trump has threatened to scrap the 2015 deal between Iran and international powers intended to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
“The United States is focused on neutralizing Iran’s destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression,” Henzel added, in an opinion article in Monday’s Arab news.
The Crown Prince warned in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes program aired on Sunday that if Iran was able to develop a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia would “follow suit”.
Norah O’Donnell, who conducted the interview, the first by the crown prince with an American broadcaster, told Arab News that no subjects were off topic - perhaps a precursor to the frank conversations that will take place between the Saudi delegation and US leaders and business people in the coming days.
“It seemed to me that there was a desire to show the American public what he believes, to show that Saudi Arabia is changing. The crown prince wants the US audience to understand him,” O’Donnell said. 
The crown prince’s sweeping social and economic reform program has been met with a groundswell of optimism in Washington. Many in the foreign policy establishment are keen to find out more about the heir to the throne and details about his domestic and foreign agenda.
“Mohammad bin Salman has started a hugely positive cultural reform program in Saudi Arabia, particularly the theological struggle to return the Kingdom to its roots in moderate Islam,” Jim Smith, who served as the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia between 2009 and 2013, told Arab News.
“Winning that war of ideas, and succeeding in the other major policy challenges, depends not only on the crown prince’s leadership but also on how good the team that he has assembled around him is, and how strong the institutions they build together are.”


All eyes on Mina as Hajj begins today

A Hajj security man takes care of a child. Security forces have been deployed around the clock to deal with all emergency cases. (SPA)
Updated 19 August 2018
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All eyes on Mina as Hajj begins today

JEDDAH: Around 2 million pilgrims arrived in the Holy Land from outside and inside the Kingdom in preparation to set out from Makkah for Mina.
They will retrace the noble tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and spend the Tarwiyah Day on Sunday in Mina. Here they will make final preparations for the Standing (Wuquf) at Arafat, which marks the climax of the annual pilgrimage, on Monday.
To be able to serve the pilgrims and enable them to perform Hajj rituals with ease and comfort, the government and private sectors concerned with Hajj and pilgrim affairs intensify their preparations, under the direct supervision of Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, adviser to King Salman, the governor of Makkah region and chairman of the Central Hajj Committee, and followed up by his deputy, Prince Abdullah bin Bandar.
The Ministry of Health will provide intensive and continuous health services supported by skillful human cadres and state-of-the-art medical technologies, in order to provide the best health services for pilgrims. The Ministry of Health has employed a total of 29,495 physicians, pharmacists, nurses and technicians to provide extensive health care to the pilgrims.
According to the ministry, its manpower during the Hajj consists of 780 consultants in various medical specializations, 1,248 specialists; 2,718 general practitioners; 1,428 pharmacists; 3,553 nurses; 1,173 technicians and lab specialists; 198 specialists in nutrition; 5,587 administrators; 165 engineers; and 1,491 ambulance drivers.
The General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque will operate and maintain all technical devices and systems of lighting, air-conditioning and ventilation, sound and control systems, cameras, communication devices and electrical stairs, buildings and libraries in the Two Holy Mosques.
Air-conditioning has been installed in the basement and ground floor and many other areas. Thousands of fans have been installed in the Two Holy Mosques and their yards.
The area around the Two Holy Mosques has been equipped with more than 8,441 toilets, as well as more than 6,000 ablution units. All power supply lines have been prepared to make sure there is power 24/7.
More than 10,000 male and female employees will be available to follow up on work and monitor it during Ramadan, in addition to a large number of cleaners.
Among the services also provided by the Presidency are translation of Friday sermons into 10 languages, organization of various scientific programs, and competitions.
A total of 210 doors in the Grand Mosque and 100 doors in the Prophet’s Mosque have been prepared, as well as 28 escalators in the Grand Mosque and four escalators in the Prophet’s Mosque. There are 38 doors for people with special needs and seven for women.
The Saudi Red Crescent deployed 127 emergency centers, 361 ambulances, 20 motorbikes, and more than 1,861 people to work in the ranges of Makkah and Madinah.
There will be 22 operational hospitals in Madinah and the holy sites, 15 temporary emergency centers, supported with more than 87 ambulances and 653 paramedics.
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs mobilized its human and mechanical capabilities to enable pilgrims to perform their duties in a safe and healthy environment by employing more than 26,000 individuals and 717 mechanisms to implement the hygiene plan in Makkah and the holy sites, as well as specialized field teams to control 33,069 food facilities in Makkah.
Civil defense teams will be deployed around the clock to deal with all emergency cases, where the injuries will be transferred using stretchers and wheelchairs to several medical evacuation sites inside and outside the mosque.
These teams will also be carrying out extraction and rescue operations inside the Holy Mosque and the surrounding area, in addition to providing urgent first aid, and transferring critical cases to the nearest hospitals and health centers, in coordination with the Red Crescent teams around the Holy Mosque. The Hajj security forces leaderships announced their readiness to maintain the security and safety of pilgrims during the pilgrimage season.
The General Command of the Air General Security is supported by all the security services and various government sectors.
In preparation for the Hajj season, the Saudi General Security Aviation Command announced that it has started implementing the first phase of its security plan to ensure the safety of pilgrims in the Kingdom. The aviation command will commence security operations over the holy sites, where special helicopters will monitor the activities surrounding the Hajj season this year. The planes are stationed in the designated locations in Makkah and Madinah from various bases to carry out the tasks assigned to them, namely traffic and security, logistical support for other security bodies, humanitarian services and the monitoring of pilgrims not following the rules.