- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2003


Petition urges reform to save the kingdom

RIYADH — The kingdom’s leaders, who have rallied to the war against terrorism, are under pressure from intellectuals demanding political reforms to save the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia came in for harsh criticism after the September 11 hijacked-jetliner attacks in the United States at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, where 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudi nationals.

“It is necessary to begin a process of radical and overall reforms,” said 305 signatories of a petition sent to Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz last week. The signatories, who included intellectuals, academics, businessmen and 51 women, condemned “terrorism in all its forms,” adding that “the absence of popular consultation in decision-making are among the leading causes behind the dangerous change the country has seen.”

No Islamist leaders signed the petition, which was not reported in the mainstream press.


Embassies alerted to danger of attacks

SAN’A — Yemen has warned Western ambassadors of new information indicating potential terrorist attacks targeting foreign interests in the country.

Interior Minister Rashad al-Eleimi met late Sunday with ambassadors of the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Italy to share the information and ask them to urge their citizens to be vigilant, an official said on condition of anonymity.

He did not comment on the nature of the threat or the source of the new information. Here in the capital, security was beefed up around embassies and foreign businesses, with extra armored cars patrolling the streets, and uniformed and plainclothes officers standing guard.

The U.S. Embassy’s Web site Sunday said the embassy received “new information from the Yemeni government regarding potential new threats to foreign-affiliated and Yemeni targets.” The embassy was planning to hold a meeting yesterday with Americans and non-Americans to discuss “current security issues.”


Suicide among young provokes concern

ALGIERS — A high suicide rate among young people is a cause of concern in this North African country, where nearly every day newspapers carry stories of new and often inexplicable tragedies.

Because the issue is taboo, no one is certain whether this is a new phenomenon or whether it has been going on for a long time and was simply ignored. In a country in which Islamic law prohibits the religious burial of a suicide, it is a subject most families do not talk about. Official figures or scientific studies do not exist, putting the issue in the realm of speculation.

If it weren’t for the news reports, it would be an entirely hidden problem. In piecing together the reports, it appears suicides are mostly young people ages 15 to 30 years.

Weekly notes …

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has appointed a new mufti, responsible for giving Muslim religious rulings on all aspects of life, officials said this week. Sheik Ali Gomaa, 51, replaces Mohammed Ahmed Al-Tayeb, who served as mufti for 18 months and has been named president of the Islamic University of Al-Azhar, the 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Muslim learning, they said. Sheik Gomaa was until now professor of theology at Al-Azhar. … Iran’s police warn they will crack down on what they see as increasingly depraved weddings, featuring brides without veils and guests also letting their hair down. For several months, Iran has seen more and more weddings “where the rules of morality are no longer respected,” anti-vice police chief Col. Seyed Azim Hosseini told the Hambasteghi newspaper.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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