French Finance Minister and IMF candidate Christine Lagarde said on Saturday tackling sovereign debt troubles would be a priority of the International Monetary Fund if she led the Washington-based rescue lender. Lagarde, competing with Mexican central bank chief Agustin Carstens, was in Saudi Arabia as part of a world tour where she needs to drum up support among emerging market economies for her IMF candidacy.
South Africa’s Trevor Manuel ruled himself out of the race for the IMF’s top job on Friday, making Lagarde an even firmer favourite, although she remains under threat of a judicial inquiry in her home country. Lagarde is backed by the European Union and a handful of smaller countries from Georgia to Mauritius. Paris is hopeful that Washington and Beijing will also stand behind her.
Brazil, Latin America’s biggest economy is leaning towards supporting Lagarde but has not yet made up its mind, officials said on Friday. Lagarde said that the IMF should also support countries affected by the pro-democracy protest movement sweeping North Africa and the Middle East.
The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia said Westerners face possible attack from unidentified extremists in the central province of al-Qassim, in the first warning of its kind this year. “We have received credible information that an unidentified extremist (s) in Saudi Arabia may be planning to attack Westerners working and living in al-Qassim, Saudi Arabia,” the embassy said in a statement posted on its website. “The timing and method of potential attacks are currently unknown,” said the statement dated Aug. 4, urging U.S. citizens to “exercise prudence and enhanced security awareness at all times”.
Qassim is among the most conservative regions in the kingdom. The key U.S. ally is ruled by the Al Saud family in alliance with clerics from the austere Wahhabi school of Islam. Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for security affairs at the Interior Ministry, said he could not immediately comment. Militants carried out attacks against Western targets, government symbols and oil facilities between 2003 and 2006. The attacks included suicide bombs at Western housing compounds, the interior ministry’s headquarters in Riyadh and oil and petrochemical companies, plus an attempt to storm the world’s biggest oil processing plant at Abqaiq in 2006. Continue reading
BBC News | 30 July 2010 | 04:12 GMT
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia are set to pay a joint visit to Lebanon. It is the first visit to the country by Mr Assad since 2005, when Syria was forced to withdraw its troops after the killing of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The two men are concerned that tensions may rise if, as rumoured, a UN tribunal indicts members of the Hezbollah movement for Mr Hariri’s assassination. On Thursday, they pledged to work together to help stabilise Lebanon. Hezbollah is Syria’s main ally in Lebanon, while Hariri had close links to Saudi Arabia. His son, Saad, is the current Lebanese prime minister. Mr Assad and King Abdullah are thought to have been instrumental in ending the five months of deadlock which preceded the formation of a unity government – including Hezbollah – in Lebanon last November.
The BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut says Lebanon’s relations with Syria have been complicated to say the least, since the killing of Rafik Hariri, the huge anti-Syrian demonstrations that followed, and the end of the 29-year Syrian military presence – all in 2005. But things have improved since then, our correspondent says – Saad Hariri has visited Damascus twice as prime minister for talks with President Assad, setting aside his accusations that Syria was behind his father’s death. Now, Mr Assad’s visit carries normalisation a step further, he adds. The Syrian and Saudi leaders are to arrive together in the capital, Beirut, on Friday morning and meet President Michel Suleiman before attending a luncheon to which members of the government have been invited.
Tensions have risen in the past week, however, with Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah reacting angrily to persistent reports that the Hariri tribunal may indict several members of the Shia Islamist group. He made clear that he would not accept such a scenario, accusing the tribunal of being politicised and part of an "Israeli project".