Dr. Hayat Sindi's participation is appropriate, as
her leadership and pioneering spirit already serves as a model for the
Saudi women of the future. A leading Saudi medical researcher who
graduated from Cambridge University with a doctorate degree in
biotechnology, Dr. Sindi is taking part in the ride with the
encouragement of several members of the Saudi royal family, including
Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the Kingdom's ambassador to the United States,
and Princess Seetah binte Abdul Aziz, who gave Dr. Sindi a pendant
with the likeness of King Abdullah, the princess' brother, to wear
during the bikeathon.
Dr. Sindi in an interview was enthusiastic and
resolute in her belief that women working together can help bring
peace to the Middle East. "The ride is aimed at raising awareness
of how the spiral of violence in the Middle East is blighting the
lives of women and children who often suffer the worst consequences of
the painfully slow pace of the peace process," she said.
The Follow the Women bike ride, which concludes on
Sept 26, is sponsored by the UK's Centre for High Performance
Development. Well known international youth worker, Detta Regan, is
the organizer of the event. Regan won the UK Woman of Europe award for
2001. "Women do not traditionally cycle in the Middle East,"
Regan said. "So the sight of a large female-only group will
attract huge interest."
For part of the journey where the terrain is too
difficult the women will travel by coach with their bikes going by
truck. They get back on their bicycles near the Syrian border, then
cycle to Damascus and on the desert road to Yarmouk University, Jordan
and finally into the West Bank.
"We will visit the Sabra and Shatilla camps
and share the pain of the Palestinian people," Dr. Sindi said.
"They have gone through the worst in life. We want to see
firsthand how they are coping and share their grief and to express our
solidarity with them."
She said this might seem like a small exercise and
to some it may be an exercise in futility but there has to be a
beginning for peace. "My advice to my countrymen in Saudi Arabia
is to take that small step. Let us not just sit tight and do nothing.
We all can make a difference." Prince Turki Al-Faisal has called
Dr. Sindi the model Arab woman; this latest effort attests to that
Dr. Sindi was born in Makkah to a modest family.
She is one of eight children. From an early age, she admired
scientists, such as Al-Kindi, Khwarizmi, Ibn Sina, Newton and
In her 20s, Dr. Sindi invented a device combining
light and ultrasound for use in the field of biotechnology. She dreams
of one day establishing a center of excellence in Saudi Arabia.
"There are a lot of misconceptions about Saudi women and I want
to dispel them. If I can make a small difference in the way Saudi
women are perceived outside, then all this will be very good,"
Dr. Sindi said. "By taking part in this ride, I want to convey to
the larger world that Saudi women are second to none. We have our
traditions, and we are proud of them. But we live in a global village,
and we should contribute to the peace effort worldwide." The ride
will be challenging but Dr. Sindi regularly goes to the gym, believing
that a healthy mind needs a healthy body. As a Saudi woman she has a
point to prove and, trusts in Allah to see her through the test.
Dr. Sindi remarked that Prince Turki encouraged her
to take part in the ride when he was the ambassador to the United
Kingdom and she thanked him for his inspiration. "It gives me a
great thrill to ride a bike that will have the Saudi green fluttering
proudly at the back. Plus, I am carrying a picture of our beloved King
Abdullah on my necklace.
She says: "We need to learn from each other,
respect others and hold onto our dreams and work to realize them. It
is time for all the good people of the world to come together and work
WORLD RECORD BY QATAR E-GOVERNMENT
Qatar's e-government recorded a creditable world
record by notching up a transaction growth rate of 470% during the
past one year.
"This is a unique record not only in the
Middle East but the whole world", acting director of e-government
Hashim al-Sada said recently. This tremendous growth rate during
August 2004 to August 2005 means that the society has increasingly
started relying on e-government to undertake their transactions, the
official said. The 470% growth is "a big number" in real
time transactions, he said. This is an indication of the credibility
attached to the service by the society and the government, al-Sada
added. During the same one-year, revenue from the transactions surged
by a whopping 841.10%, swelling from QR1.28mn to QR10.74mn.
Most of the services offered by e-government
recorded handsome growth rates. Residence permit transactions, for
instance, showed an increase of 704%, going up from 1109 to 7807
during the past one year. Under the 10 different heads in this
category, the highest increase was recorded in the issue of new RPs -
a staggering 5203.77%, up from 53 to 2758 in one year. Payment of
traffic fines through e-government increased by 850% while renewal of
driving licenses also went up by 114%. Issue of visit visas was up by
225.80%, and that of health cards showed a robust growth, rising from
219 to 1105, up 504% in one year. Similarly, payment of electricity
and other utility bills also went up by 300%.
Employment of Qataris increased by 190.7% while the
use of e-government for paying Zakat dropped from 4 to 2 in one year.
Red Crescent transactions also declined during the same period. Al-Sada
said he expected a still faster growth this year.
Talking about the projects in the pipeline, the
acting director said issuing of building permits is being facilitated,
in co-ordination with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and
Agriculture, Urban Development Agency and others.
"In fact, the first phase is over and
connections with some agencies are in place," al-Sada said.
"It is a huge program - as big as the project itself and hence is
taking some time".
Also present on the occasion were Haytham
Abduljawad, program executive manager; Mazin A M Thabet, business
development manager; Mai Mohamed al-Mansour, administration and
finance manager; and Amar Zidane, marketing assistant.
Saudi Arabia called for reforms in the United
Nations in order for the world body to play a more effective role in
maintaining peace and stability across the globe. It also demanded
restrictions on the veto power of the permanent members of the UN
Security Council and joint global efforts to combat terrorism.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, Crown Prince
Sultan, deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation, also
urged developed countries to open their markets to developing
countries. "They should also facilitate accession of other
countries, including my country, to the World Trade Organization (WTO),
offering adequate flexibility considering their situations," he
"The Kingdom appreciates the vital role of UN
bodies and expects that the current efforts to reform the United
Nations would strengthen these bodies and increase their vitality. We
also support an international consensus on the expansion of the
Security Council and restriction of its veto power. It should not be
allowed veto resolutions related to implementing its previous
decisions," he said.
Prince Sultan also called for the restoration of
the powers of the UN General Assembly. "Everybody must adhere to
the UN Charter to achieve peace and stability and there should not be
double standard while adopting resolutions," he said. He stressed
the need to make the Middle East and the Gulf free of weapons of mass
In his address, Prince Sultan urged the
international community to work for realizing the Palestinians' dream
of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. "Arab
countries have expressed their commitment to a just peace by endorsing
the peace plan proposed by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King
Abdullah," he said. ýRespecting international resolutions is the
best way to settle global conflicts," he pointed out.
Prince Sultan called on Iraqis to overcome their
differences in order to achieve their common objectives. "We are
now in need of an effective United Nations more than ever, a UN which
can carry out its mission of realizing global peace and stability and
sustainable global growth, ensuring human rights and respecting the
distinguished features of various societies and cultures."
The crown prince emphasized the Kingdom's efforts
for manpower development, saying the government allocated a
substantial part of its budget for the purpose. He said the Kingdom
had given four percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on foreign
aid annually, adding that 83 countries had benefited from its
financial assistance. Saudi Arabia tops the list of countries
extending foreign aid, he said. The Kingdom had contributed more than
$24 billion to the capital of several development organizations around
the world, especially in Arab and Islamic countries. "Saudi
Arabia stands second after the US in foreign remittances of expatriate
workers," he said, adding that these remittances are an important
source of foreign currencies and financial resources for many
"We have also written off foreign debts worth
$6 billion owed by many poor countries and given debt remission to
other countries," the prince said and urged developed countries
to fulfill their pledges by allocating 0.7 percent of their national
revenues for development aid. He called for innovative sources to
finance development projects.
Referring to terrorism, Prince Sultan said:
"Saudi Arabia has suffered a lot from terrorism and confronted it
with its force, inspired by the teachings of the Islamic faith. Islam
is a religion of peace and security and encourages cooperation between
peoples. It prohibits aggression against human beings." Saudi
Arabia hosted an international counter terrorism conference in Riyadh
last February, which supported a proposal made by King Abdullah to
establish an international anti-terror center; Prince Sultan said and
hoped the General Assembly would approve the proposal to strengthen
international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. He urged the
General Assembly to set up a working team to study the resolutions of
the Riyadh conference. Uniting their fight against international
terrorism, leaders of fifty countries ˇ including the five Security
Council permanent members, signed the UN Convention for the
Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
US President George W. Bush and his Russian
counterpart, Vladimir Putin, signed the convention on Wednesday last.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin also signed the
convention. French President Jacques Chirac was unable to attend the
summit for health reasons.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the summit
that the next move in the Middle East peace process was up to the
Palestinians after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Sharon, who
enjoyed a warm reception at the summit because of the pullout,
acknowledged the Palestinians' right to a state of their own. But at
the same time, he reasserted Israel's claims to disputed Jerusalem as
its "eternal and united capital".
Palestinians see the eastern sector of the city as
a capital of a future state, and the competing claims have made
Jerusalem one of the most contentious issues in the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict. "Now it is the Palestinians turn to
prove their desire for peace," Sharon said. "The most
important test the Palestinian leaders will face is in fulfilling
their commitment to putting an end to terror and its infrastructures
eliminate the anarchic regime of armed gangs and cease the incitement
and indoctrination of hatred toward Israel and the Jews." In
response, Palestinians said the only solution was a complete Israeli
withdrawal from all occupied territories including the West Bank and
Arab East Jerusalem. "The problem can only be solved be ending
the occupation that began in 1967," Palestinian chief negotiator
Saeb Erekat said.
IRAN FOR SHARING N-TECH WITH MUSLIM STATES
Iran is ready to share its nuclear technology with
other Islamic countries; President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as
saying. The comments heightened Western concerns about Tehran's
nuclear program just ahead of a key meeting of the UN's nuclear
watchdog this month.
"The Islamic Republic never seeks weapons of
mass destruction and with respect to the needs of Islamic countries,
we are ready to transfer nuclear know-how to these countries,"
the official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
The remarks were made during Ahmadinejad's meeting
with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of
the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Washington and its
allies say Iran has failed to provide full and timely information
about its nuclear program and are alarmed that Tehran last month broke
UN seals at a uranium processing facility. A vote on sending Iran's
nuclear case to the UN Security Council may be taken at a meeting of
the International Atomic Energy Agency's board on Sept. 19.
Iran's state media reported that Ahmadinejad, who
took office last month, had also held meetings with the leaders of
Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan and Chile in New York.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said it was not
clear what Ahamdinejad's offer to Islamic countries involved. "In
any case, this is not the pressing question," he said. "The
issue is the lack of confidence in Iran's nuclear program as a result
of two decades of non-disclosures and concealment."
Iran insists it has every right as a signatory of
the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to develop a full atomic
program to generate electricity. "We have firmly decided to use
this technology for peaceful purposes within the framework of the NPT,
international regulations and cooperation with the IAEA," IRNA
quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
Western powers appeared yesterday to back away from
an early move to refer Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security
Council. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the three
major European powers that have been negotiating with Iran on its
nuclear ambitions ˇ Britain, France and Germany ˇ were still giving
priority to talks.
"We want to pursue the dialogue. We want Iran
to suspend various activities. We think there is still room for
negotiations," he told a news conference at UN headquarters. If
that failed, there would be no choice but to take the matter to the
Security Council, he added.
Earlier, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
acknowledged that the United States and its European allies may lack
the votes to haul Iran before the highest United Nations body next
week over its resumption of uranium conversion. "If we get a
referral on Sept. 19, that will be good, but I think the issue of a
referral is something that we'll be working for a while," she
SAUDI AID FOR PALESTINE EDUCATION PROGRAMMES
Saudi Arabia will provide financial assistance
worth SR56.9 million for a number of Palestinian educational programs
and help Palestinian students complete their higher education.
Interior Minister Prince Naif, supervisor of the Saudi Committee for
the Relief of Palestinians (SCRP), signed an agreement with UNESCO to
implement the programs in coordination with the Palestinian Higher
SCRP's financial assistance will cover 75 percent
tuition fees (SR43 million) of 15,989 boy and girl students as well as
75 percent tuition fees (SR6 million) of 1,747 community college
students, said a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency. Of the
total amount, SR8 million will be set aside to support 11 Palestinian
universities and colleges, it added.
Dr. Saed Al-Harithy, adviser to Prince Naif and
chairman of the committee, said the signing of the MOU with UNESCO and
the Palestinian ministry is in line with the Kingdom's continuous
support for the Palestinian people. The grants offered by the
committee would help thousands of Palestinian students to complete
their higher education. "SCRP's financial aid will help
Palestinian universities carry out their educational programs,"
The committee intends to extend all possible
assistance to the Palestinians through 36 relief and humanitarian
programs, he said. The panel has already spent more than SR728.56
million on these projects. SCRP implemented 35 programs to support the
Palestinians at a total cost of SR730 million, Harithy said. The
amount was spent on hospitals, medicine, medical appliances,
ambulances, treatment of wounded Palestinians in Saudi hospitals, and
supplying 50 dialysis units. "We have also dispatched 30
Palestinian students for higher studies abroad," he pointed out.
Financial aid was also given for establishing
computer centers, desalination plants and schools as well as water and
electricity networks. "We have repaired 2,545 houses in West
Bank, constructed 600 housing units in Gaza and distributed more than
a million baskets of food," he said. The committee also
distributes sacrificial meat, clothing and blankets among the
Palestinians. It has paid salaries to a large number of workers in
order to boost Palestinian economy. It also carried out another
project worth SR13.5 million to supply things required by some 90,000
Palestinian students including schoolbags and textbooks.
Saudi Arabia has pledged again to pump more crude
oil if required, but said what world consumers need most is refined
fuels such as gasoline and heating oil. Crown Prince Sultan blamed a
price spike that took US crude to $70.85 a barrel on a global shortage
of refineries, not the crude to run in them. "We are concerned
about the rise in oil prices and confirm the Kingdom's readiness to do
its utmost to compensate for shortages in supply and to meet
increasing demand," Prince Sultan was quoted by the Saudi Press
Agency as saying at a reception hosted by the Saudi-American Business
Council in New York last week. The current rise in oil prices does not
stem from a shortage in crude oil supplies but is due to, as everyone
knows, increased demand for products and a shortage in refining
Crown Prince Sultan said the Kingdom had already
increased its production to 11 million barrels per day. "We are
working on further raising our output gradually to reach 12 million
bpd by 2009," he told Saudi and US businessmen. He emphasized the
importance of dialogue between producing and consuming countries to
achieve world market stability. The Organization of the Petroleum
Exporting Countries meets in Vienna next week and its president has
said he would propose the group raise its output by 500,000 bpd. But
Qatari Energy Minister Abdullah Al-Attiyah said the proposed hike,
viewed by analysts as a goodwill gesture, was unlikely to ease prices
and urged consuming states to make it easier to build new refineries
to produce more fuel. "I do not think that this will have an
effect," Qatar's state news agency QNA quoted him as saying in a
radio interview. "The sharp demand for products is the reason
behind the rise and not demand for crude oil," Attiyah said.
OPEC has already raised output by more than four
million barrels per day over the past three years and is operating
close to full capacity. Only Saudi Arabia has any significant spare
capacity. But much of the Kingdom's extra oil is medium-to-heavy,
high-sulfur crude that is harder for refiners to process into light
transport fuels. The closure of US refineries by Hurricane Katrina has
also left OPEC and other heavy crude producers such as Mexico and
Venezuela, struggling to find homes for those barrels left behind.
OPEC has struggled to tame a two-year price rally that has doubled
crude prices. It blames much of the rise on the world's shortage of
Prince Sultan also blamed high prices on natural
disasters, in a reference to Hurricane Katrina, security concerns in
some producing countries and speculation on oil markets.
Oil prices extended gains above $65 a barrel
yesterday on worries over heating fuel supplies. Prices hit a record
above $70 a barrel after Katrina shut down some refineries in the US
Gulf of Mexico and cut supplies. Producing states have and still call
on consuming nations, especially the United States and Europe, to
facilitate the granting of licenses to build more refineries.
Abdul Aziz Al-Quraishi, president of the
Saudi-American Business Council on the Saudi side, said Saudi Arabia
was planning to carry out infrastructure projects worth $600 billion
by 2020. "I am happy to note that many American companies are now
interested to do business in the Kingdom. The International Energy
Agency said it would stick by its initial response to fears of global
oil shortages after Hurricane Katrina, following speculation that more
emergency oil stocks would be made available. The IEA announced on
Sept. 2 that its members would release 60 million barrels of oil from
strategic reserves over a 30-day period to counter the effects of
Katrina, which devastated oil-producing capacity on the Gulf coast of
the United States. After a meeting of the IEA board, executive
director Claude Mandril said the energy watchdog would neither extend
the release period, nor increase the volume of releases, which include
both crude and refined oil products. "The IEA governing board,
after reviewing its initial collective response action ... has decided
to maintain its action," he said.
(Inputs from PAGE sources
and courtesy Tehran Times)