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Found 103 results

  1. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. File photo WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia's crown prince warned in a US television interview that if Tehran gets a nuclear weapon, his country will follow suit. "Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible," Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an excerpt of the interview that aired Thursday on "CBS This Morning." The 32-year-old Prince Mohammed said he has referred to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as "the new Hitler" because "he wants to expand." "He wants to create his own project in the Middle East very much like Hitler who wanted to expand at the time," Prince Mohammed said. "Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realise how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened. I don't want to see the same events happening in the Middle East." The interview is scheduled to run on CBS´s "60 Minutes" show on Sunday, two days before the crown prince's scheduled White House meeting with US President Donald Trump.
  2. Naval chief being conferred the medal. -Pakistan Navy KARACHI: Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi was conferred with Saudi Arabia's King Abdul Aziz Medal of Excellence by the Chief of General Staff of the Royal Saudi Armed Forces on Tuesday, said a statement by the Pakistan Navy (PN). The naval chief is on an official visit to the kingdom. Admiral Abbasi called on Chief of General Staff Royal Saudi Armed Forces General Fayyad Al Ruwaili. During the meeting, professional matters of mutual interest and bilateral defence ties were discussed. General Fayyad Al Ruwaili acknowledged warm and brotherly relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, based on strong defence foundations and historical ties and highly appreciated the role and contribution of Pakistan in spearheading various initiatives for maintaining peace and stability in the region. Later, Admiral Abbasi visited the Royal Saudi Naval Forces Headquarter where he was received by Commander Royal Saudi Naval Forces, added the PN statement. Commander RSNF Vice Admiral Fahad Abdullah Al Ghofaily appreciated the professionalism of Pakistan Navy personnel and the active role being played by Pakistan Navy for maritime security and stability in the region. He also acknowledged the valuable training support being provided to RSNF by Pakistan Navy and applauded the successful conduct of Exercise Naseem-al-Bahr by the two navies in Gulf waters. Both dignitaries agreed to further enhance the interaction between both navies in diverse fields of training, mutual visits and defence collaboration.
  3. Women walk at a market in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/Files GENEVA: A UN rights watchdog called on Saudi Arabia on Monday to end discriminatory practices against women, including its pervasive system of male guardianship, and give them full access to justice. After reviewing the deeply conservative kingdom?s record, the independent experts welcomed recent decisions to allow women to launch their own businesses and to lift a de facto ban on them driving a car, set for June. Saudi Arabia is still one of the most restrictive countries for women in the world. It has no women ministers and retains a guardianship system requiring women to have a male relative?s approval for important decisions. In its conclusions, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) urged the Saudi government to ?abolish practices of male guardianship?. It should enforce a recent order that would entitle all women to obtain a passport, travel or study abroad, choose their residency, and access health care ?without having to seek their guardian?s consent?. ?We asked for the abolition of the system because even though they said they had passed a law, we realized that in practice the system still continued,? Hilary Gbedemah, a panel member, told Reuters. A Saudi delegation told the panel last month that it had implemented rules and laws tailored to traditions and religious values that allowed women more independence as they played a growing economic role. Laws concerning justice and child protection had been strengthened. But experts said Saudi Arabia should implement a comprehensive strategy to ?eliminate patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes that discriminate against women?. Rape and all forms of violence against women should be made crimes under Saudi law, they said. Child marriages, forced marriages, and the compulsory dress code for women should be ended, it said. Women should have the right to choose their dress and not face violence or threats by the religious police and their male guardian. Discussion of the guardianship issue had been ?very wide? with the delegation, Gbedemah said. ?We saw it where women were deemed to be disobedient to their guardians, where they needed their consent to marry, where the guardians could enforce dress codes, and in the area of domestic violence,? she said. ?So in a nutshell, these are the four important areas that we asked for follow-up on, within two years,? she said. Gbedemeh, asked about the planned lifting of the ban on driving, said: ?Even if it is symbolic, it is a positive step. ?Because for so long it was taken for granted that women could not and would not drive,? she said. ?I am positive that once this is done, it will open the gates for leverage for removal of other restrictions?.
  4. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Cairo on March 4, 2018-AFP RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Egypt have set up a $10 billion joint fund to develop a mega city, a Saudi government source said Monday, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits Cairo. The deal is aimed at developing the Egyptian side of NEOM, the futuristic project straddling Saudi Arabia and Jordan which was unveiled by Prince Mohammed last October as part of plans to diversify the kingdom´s oil-dependent economy. "Saudi Arabia signed (an) investment agreement with Egypt to develop Egyptian lands in the south of Sinai to be part of the NEOM Project," the government source told AFP. "Saudi Arabia and Egypt have set up a joint fund of equal shares valued at more than $10 billion. The Egyptians´ share comprises a leased land for (the) long term." Prince Mohammed´s visit to Cairo is the first leg of his maiden foreign tour as heir to the Saudi throne. The NEOM deal underscores growing strategic ties between the Arab world´s richest and the most populous states -- Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- who are both opposed to Iran´s influence in the region. Egypt is nominally part of a Saudi-led military coalition which intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to fight Iran-backed Huthi rebels. The two allies are also part of a bloc of nations that has boycotted Qatar since June over alleged ties to extremists and Iran. Prince Mohammed´s visit comes ahead of Egypt´s presidential polls, scheduled for late March, with incumbent Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expected to win a second four-year term. The powerful crown prince is expected in Britain on Wednesday for talks with Prime Minister Theresa May and in the United States from March 19 to 22. He is also expected to visit France in the coming weeks. The $500-billion NEOM, meaning "new future" in a combination of English and Arabic abbreviations, is planned to be a biotech and digital hub spread over 26,500 square kilometres (10,000 sq miles) in an area facing Jordan and Egypt.
  5. audi women watch the first Riyadh International Marathon, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-Reuters RIYADH: Saudi Arabia hosted its first marathon for women at the weekend, local media said, as the conservative kingdom seeks to boost female sports in a far-reaching modernisation drive. Hundreds of women runners, many of them dressed in traditional Islamic attire, raced in eastern Al-Ahsa region on Saturday. "The aim of the marathon is to promote running and introduce the concept of sports for all, for a healthier way of life," Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya News quoted the marathon´s supervisor, Malek al-Mousa, as saying. The event came after Riyadh hosted its first international half-marathon in late February, which prompted complaints from some Saudis on social media about the notable absence of women. Sports authorities are set to organise another marathon for women in the holy city of Mecca on April 6, pro-government Okaz newspaper reported. Long known for its ultra-conservative mores, the kingdom has embarked on a wide-ranging programme of social reforms that includes allowing women to drive from June. The kingdom´s General Entertainment Authority last month said it will stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector over the coming decade. But some Saudis have complained on social media of what they called wasteful spending as the kingdom reels from slumping oil revenues, high inflation and unemployment.
  6. RIYADH: Saudi Arabia began issuing licences Thursday to operate cinemas in the kingdom ahead of their reopening after a decades-long ban was lifted as part of a far-reaching liberalisation drive. The move is another step towards opening the Saudi market to regional and international theatre chains, which have long eyed the kingdom as the Middle East's last untapped mass market. The culture and information ministry said it had "finalised the terms of licencing to restore cinema in Saudi Arabia". "Licencing commences immediately," the ministry added in a statement. The news comes as Dubai-based VOX Cinemas, the leading operator in the Middle East, launches its first public screening in Saudi Arabia, which runs through Saturday and aims to raise awareness about Alzheimer´s disease. The screening in Riyadh will feature content from local producers including Myrkott Production and Telfaz Company, VOX said. Major cinema chains are seeking to break into the market of more than 30 million people, the majority of whom are under 25. In December, US giant AMC Entertainment signed a non-binding agreement with Saudi Arabia's vast Public Investment Fund to build and operate cinemas across the kingdom. AMC will still face stiff competition from regional heavyweights, including VOX. The move to reopen cinemas is part of a modernisation drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is seeking to balance unpopular subsidy cuts in an era of low oil prices with more entertainment options -- despite opposition from religious hardliners. The reform stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom reels from a protracted slump in oil prices. Saudis currently splurge billions of dollars annually to see movie shows and visit amusement parks in neighbouring tourist hubs like Dubai.
  7. RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced plans Thursday to spend billions on building new venues and flying in Western acts, in a total overhaul of its entertainment sector that would have been unthinkable not long ago. Long known for its ultra-conservative mores, the kingdom has embarked on a wide-ranging programme of social and economic reforms driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. At a glitzy press conference in Riyadh, General Entertainment Authority (GEA) chief Ahmad bin Aqeel al-Khatib told reporters the kingdom is set to invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector over the coming decade. "We are already building the infrastructure," Khatib said, adding that ground had been broken for an opera house. Khatib said hundreds of new companies have sprung up over the past year, registering for licences to take advantage of the budding sector. "God willing, you will see a real change by 2020," the entertainment chief said, adding that more than 5,000 events were planned for the coming year. The funding for new infrastructure and entertainment offerings will come from both the government and the private sector, he said. Behind Khatib, a screen teased the names of international acts like Maroon 5, Andrea Bocelli and Cirque du Soleil. Neither a breakdown of how the money would be spent nor a schedule for the cultural programme were provided. But it follows a series of events in recent months including concerts, a Comic-Con festival and a mixed-gender national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets to thumping electronic music for the first time. Authorities have also announced plans to lift a decades-old ban on cinemas this year, with some 300 expected to open by 2030. Senior GEA official Faisal Bafrat said the past year had already seen exceptional development in the entertainment sector with more than 2,000 events involving 100,000 volunteers and 150 small and medium businesses organised in 2017. 'Don't travel' The newfound openness, which includes plans to allow women to drive from June this year, has been hailed by some as a crucial liberalisation of Saudi society. Critics have pointed to continued restrictions, however, especially on women who remain under a strict "guardianship" system that gives male relatives significant control over their lives. Yet even that could be changing. With the lifting of the driving ban on the horizon, Riyadh announced Sunday that women can now open their own businesses without the consent of a husband or male relative. The reforms are part of Prince Mohammed's ambitious "Vision 2030" programme, which seeks to diversify the Saudi economy as it reels from a slump in energy prices, with the entertainment sector seen as a key potential source of growth. Saudis splurge billions annually on movies and visits to amusement parks in the neighbouring tourist hubs of Dubai and Bahrain, which is accessible by a land causeway. Khatib vowed turn around that trend. "I went to Bahrain. The bridge is being reversed," he said, adding that Bahraini nationals were now coming to Saudi Arabia for events -- accounting for 10 percent of ticket sales in recent months. The goal to keep Saudis - more than half of whom are under 25 - spending their disposable income at home is part of a wider campaign called "Don't travel". Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, has been struggling to cope with persistent budget deficits that began in 2014 when crude prices plummeted. The kingdom withdrew around $250 billion from its financial reserves in the past four years. Authorities have also increased fuel prices, introduced a value-added tax and cut subsidies in an effort to reduce costs and boost non-oil revenues. The shift has been a painful one for many Saudis accustomed to a generous welfare system. In December, the government announced a budget with record spending as it seeks to stimulate growth.
  8. A Saudi woman takes a selfie during the first comic con held in Riyadh on November 25, 2017 - AFP RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is to invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector over the coming decade, an official said Thursday, as the kingdom pursues a programme of social and economic reforms. General Entertainment Authority chief Ahmad bin Aqeel al-Khatib said the money will come from both the government and the private sector. The authority said earlier this week that more than 5,000 events are planned for 2018. "We are already building the infrastructure," Khatib said, adding that ground had been broken for an opera house. "God willing, you will see a real change by 2020," he said. In recent months, Saudi Arabia has organised concerts, a Comic-Con popular culture festival and a mixed-gender national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets to thumping electronic music for the first time. The opening up of new entertainment options in the conservative kingdom is part of a programme of reforms dubbed "Vision 2030" championed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  9. Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al-Darbi in an undated photo by the International Red Cross. Image via The Gitmo Observer WASHINGTON: A Guantanamo Bay detainee ? who pleaded guilty to helping plan a 2002 attack on a French oil tanker ? is set to be transferred from the military prison to Saudi Arabia, a US official said Tuesday. Saudi citizen Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al-Darbi has cooperated with the government since entering his plea as part of a deal four years ago, and authorities say he should now be sent to a Saudi rehabilitation centre for extremists. If transferred, Darbi would be the first Guantanamo inmate to be released since US President Donald Trump took office more than a year ago. Darbi entered a plea deal in February 2014 that saw him admit to planning, aiding, and supporting an attack on the MV Limburg, which killed a Bulgarian sailor, injured a dozen, and caused a large oil spill in the Gulf of Aden. As part of his plea, Darbi has provided evidence against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri ? another Saudi Guantanamo detainee, who faces the death penalty on charges he masterminded the MV Limburg attack and the 2000 attack against the USS Cole in Yemen that left 17 dead. Commander Sarah Higgins ? a Pentagon spokesperson ? said the Defense Department hopes Darbi's transfer "will take place soon". "Darbi has complied with all terms of his plea agreement," she said. Darbi was sentenced to 13 years in prison, starting from the date of the plea. The deal included a provision that after four more years at Guantanamo, he could serve the remainder of his term at a luxurious rehab centre in the Saudi capital Riyadh, where former extremists are given counselling and ideological detoxification. "We await assurances from the Saudi Arabian government to move forward on his departure," Higgins said. According to a transcript of an October hearing, prosecutors said Darbi gave a wide range of help to the Limburg attackers "including providing or obtaining visas for the terrorists that actually took part in the attack, providing them housing, purchasing equipment." Darbi's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Legal shambles Instead of being tried in a US civilian court, Nashiri and other inmates are going through a legal process known as the military commissions, which were drawn up to prosecute Guantanamo captives. Among those facing trial are several alleged 9/11 co-conspirators, including accused mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But their cases have been beset with legal challenges and seemingly interminable delays, and Nashiri's trial collapsed in disarray last week. Military commissions judge Air Force Colonel Vance Spath had to halt that case in frustration ? at one point threatening to retire ? because he could not compel Nashiri's main lawyers to show up in court. His lawyers last year said their privileged conversations with and about their client had been monitored by the government, and that they could not proceed with his defence. A total of 41 inmates remain at Guantanamo, but Trump has vowed to send more detainees to the notorious prison, which is located on a US naval base on the southeastern tip of Cuba. Of the 41, five inmates apart from Darbi were cleared for transfer under former US president Barack Obama, but efforts to fly them out before Trump took office failed at the last minute.
  10. ISLAMABAD: Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani expressed reservations over the briefing given by Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir to the upper house of parliament on Monday regarding deployment of Pakistani troops in Saudi Arabia. The defence minister in his briefing, shed light on the cooperation between the two countries and the terms of engagement under which the troops will be sent to the kingdom. Dastgir said that 1600 Pakistani troops are currently deployed in Saudi Arabia and 10,000 Saudi troops are currently receiving training in Pakistan. He added that more than 1,000 troops will be deployed in Saudi Arabia over a few months? time, bringing the tally of Pakistani troops deployed to 2,600. While shedding light on the fraternal relations between the two Muslim countries, Dastgir said that the armed forces of Saudi Arabia were even present in the Defence Day parade in Pakistan last year. The chairman Senate took the defence minister?s briefing with a grain of salt, calling it ?inadequate?. Raza Rabbani said that the briefing is not enough to satisfy the house and raises many questions. ?Where will be the troops deployed? Will they be inside cities or on borders?? said the chairman Senate. ?What are the terms and conditions of the agreement?? he further said, while in the same vein, offering the defence minister a camera sitting on the subject as well. On Friday, Rabbani had summoned Defence MinisterDastgir to appear before the Upper House of Parliament with regards to the army?s announcement of sending troops to Saudi Arabia. In the previous session, Pakistan Peoples? Party Senator Farhatullah Babar told that the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), had said the troops? contingent would be less than a division?s. The senator said that the announcement was made following a meeting of the army chief with the Saudi ambassador in Pakistan. The ISPR had earlier said that the troops to be deployed, or the ones already there, will not be stationed outside the Kingdom. Last year, former Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif was appointed as the head of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition based in Riyadh. The alliance includes 41 Islamic countries, excluding Iran, Iraq and Syria. In November, the summit held its first meeting of defence ministers and other senior officials from the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, which officially identifies as a "pan-Islamic unified front" against violent extremism. In his address, Gen (retd) Raheel Shareef had emphasised that the sole objective of IMCTC was counter-terrorism and it was not against any country or any sect.
  11. RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said Wednesday it will further trim oil production and exports next month to reduce excess stockpiles that have weighed on crude prices, as concerns mount over US oversupply. Saudi Aramco's crude output in March will be 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) below its February level while exports will be kept below seven million bpd, the energy ministry said. "Saudi Arabia remains focused on working down excess oil inventories," a ministry spokesman said. "Market volatility is a common concern for producers and consumers, and the kingdom is committed to mitigating this volatility and moderating its negative impacts." Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, last month called for extending cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC producers beyond 2018, after a deal to throttle output succeeded in shoring up prices. Oil prices fell from above $110 per barrel in 2014 to around $30 at the start of 2016. But the market has seen a turnaround since and oil prices are now close to $60. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said Wednesday that producers would rather persist with production cuts this year even if that brings about a slight supply shortage. "If we have to overbalance the market a little bit, then so be it," he told reporters following an industry conference in Riyadh. His comment comes a day after the International Energy Agency warned that surging oil production in the United States is putting the brakes on crude prices, undermining the kingdom´s efforts. Shale producers, particularly in the United States - who are not party to the deal - are ramping up output to cash in on rebounding crude prices. But Falih and his Russian counterpart, Alexander Novak, rejected the idea of any "exit strategy" from production cuts. Following their meeting in Riyadh, the ministers of the two major oil producers said they agreed on the need to cooperate to prop up prices amid a surge in US output. "I am confident that our high degree of cooperation and coordination will continue to bring the desired results," Falih said.
  12. Saudi Arabia has executed 20 people since the start of 2018 RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Thursday executed four Pakistani men convicted of raping and murdering a woman and raping her teenage son, the interior ministry said. The men were also convicted of stealing jewellery and cash after entering the woman´s home in Riyadh and raping and strangling her, according to a ministry statement cited by the official SPA news agency. Saudi Arabia has executed 20 people since the start of 2018, according to an AFP count. Last year, 141 people were put to death in the kingdom, where executions are carried out by the sword.
  13. Saudi airspace has so far been off-limits to Israel-bound commercial planes JERUSALEM/NEW DELHI: Air India said on Wednesday it plans to begin direct flights to Israel and has proposed they pass through Saudi airspace, a route so far off-limits to Israel-bound commercial planes. Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and lifting the 70-year-old airspace ban would reflect what appears to be thawing ties between Israel and the kingdom, both US allies with a shared concern over Iranian influence in the region. An Air India spokesman and Israel?s Airports Authority said the state-run carrier had requested slots for three weekly flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv. The Airports Authority said the service would begin in early March. Air India was awaiting clearance from the Indian aviation regulator to fly over Saudi Arabia, the spokesman said. Israeli media, in unsourced reports, said Riyadh had granted the necessary flyover rights, which would shorten the flight time from New Delhi by more than two hours. A spokesman for Saudi?s General Authority of Civil Aviation said the agency had not granted any permission to Air India. India and Israel have built close ties over the years, largely centred on arms purchases, away from the public eye. But under Narendra Modi, whose nationalist party has long admired Israel for its tough approach to terrorism, ties have flowered across the economy and last year he made a first-ever visit to Israel by an Indian prime minister. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited India last month, the first such trip in 15 years. El Al Israel Airlines, the country?s flag carrier, flies four weekly flights to Mumbai but these take seven hours rather than five as they take a route south towards Ethiopia and then east to India, avoiding Saudi airspace. Israel?s Tourism Ministry said it will grant Air India 750,000 euros for flying the new route, as part of its policy of increasing the number of airlines flying to Israel. Air India had made a similar request for slots to Israeli authorities last year but never followed through, as circumventing Saudi airspace was not economically viable.
  14. Cars drive past the Kingdom Centre Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser RIYADH: Saudi Arabia?s government has arranged to seize more than $100 billion through financial settlements with businessmen and officials detained in its crackdown on corruption, the attorney general said on Tuesday. The announcement appeared to represent a political victory for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who launched the purge last November and predicted at the time that it would net about $100 billion in settlements. Dozens of top officials and businessmen were detained in the crackdown, many of them confined and interrogated at Riyadh?s opulent Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Well over 100 detainees are believed to have been released. Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal ? the owner of global investor Kingdom Holding ? and Waleed al-Ibrahim, who controls influential regional broadcaster MBC, were freed last weekend. ?The estimated value of settlements currently stands at more than 400 billion riyals ($106 billion) represented in various types of assets, including real estate, commercial entities, securities, cash, and other assets,? Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb said in a statement. The huge sum, if successfully recovered, would be a big financial boost for the government, which has seen its finances strained by low oil prices. The state budget deficit this year is projected at 195 billion riyals. In total, the investigation subpoenaed 381 people, some of whom testified or provided evidence, Mojeb said, adding that 56people had not reached settlements and were still in custody, down from 95 early last week. The government has generally declined to reveal details of the allegations against detainees or their settlements, making it impossible to be sure how much corruption has been punished or whether the $100 billion figure is realistic. The only settlement disclosed so far was a deal by senior prince Miteb bin Abdullah to pay more than $1 billion, according to Saudi officials. Miteb was once seen as a leading contender for the throne, so his detention fueled suspicion among foreign diplomats there might be political motives behind the purge. Although officials said both Prince Alwaleed and Ibrahim reached financial settlements after admitting unspecified ?violations?, Prince Alwaleed continued to insist publicly he was innocent, while MBC said Ibrahim had been fully exonerated. Economy minister Mohammed al-Tuwaijri told CNN this month that most assets seized in the purge were illiquid, such as real estate and structured financial instruments. That suggested the government may not have gained large sums of cash to spend. In another sign that the investigation was winding down, a Saudi official told Reuters on Tuesday that all detainees had now left the Ritz-Carlton. The hotel ? where the cheapest room costs $650 a night ? is to reopen to the public in mid-February. Some detainees are believed to have been moved from the hotel to prison after refusing to admit wrongdoing and reach financial settlements; they may stand trial. Bankers in the Gulf said the secrecy of the crackdown had unsettled the business community and could weigh on the willingness of local and foreign businesses to invest. ?It?s reassuring if this situation is finally at an end, as the process was not clear from the start and at least if it is now ended, that provides some clarity and closure,? said a banker who deals with Saudi Arabia. But Prince Mohammed appears to have won widespread approval for the purge among ordinary Saudis, partly because the government has said it will use some of the money it seizes to fund social benefits. ?What has happened is great, it will be counted as a win for the government. Whoever the person is, he is being held accountable, whether a royal or a citizen,? said Abdullah al-Otaibi, drinking at a Riyadh coffee shop on Tuesday. An international financier visiting the region said authorities? tough approach might ultimately prove effective. ?There are many different ways to fight corruption and not all of them are effective. Ukraine tried to do it by creating institutions, but that hasn?t really worked as that approach doesn?t change behaviour,? he said. ?Saudi?s approach stands a better chance of being effective as it?s more direct.?
  15. A view shows the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the diplomatic quarter of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 5, 2017. Photo: Reuters RIYADH: Saudi Arabian authorities have released all remaining detainees from Riyadh?s opulent Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which had been used as an interrogation centre in a crackdown on corruption, a Saudi official said on Tuesday. The news signaled that the three-month-old purge, in which dozens of top officials and businessmen were detained by investigators who said they aimed to seize some $100 billion of illicit assets, was drawing to a close. Top ministers, princes detained in Saudi Arabia amid anti-corruption sweep The king also announced the creation of a new anti-corruption committee chaired by his son and successor Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ?There are no longer any detainees left at the Ritz-Carlton,? the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity under briefing rules. He did not say how many suspects remained in detention at other locations in Saudi Arabia. Some are believed to have been moved from the Ritz to prison after refusing to admit wrongdoing and reach financial settlements with the authorities. Last week, the attorney general said that countrywide most detainees had agreed to settlements, 90 had been released after charges were dropped, and 95 remained in custody. Some cases will go to trial. Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal sits for an interview with Reuters in the office of the suite where he had been detained at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 27, 2018. Photo: Reuters Among top businessmen caught up in the purge were Prince Alwaleed, owner of global investor Kingdom Holding, and Waleed al-Ibrahim, who controls influential regional broadcaster MBC. MBC said the investigation found Ibrahim completely innocent of wrongdoing and Prince Alwaleed has insisted he is innocent, although Saudi officials said both men agreed to settlements after admitting unspecified ?violations?. Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed released as graft probe winds down Terms of Waleed's release were unclear but the government had previously said that most detainees agreed on financial settlements in exchange for their freedom In an interview with Reuters at his suite in the Ritz-Carlton hours before he was released on Saturday, Prince Alwaleed said he had been well-treated in custody and described his case as the result of a misunderstanding. He showed off the comforts of his suite?s gold-accented private office, a dining room and a kitchen which was fully stocked with his preferred vegetarian meals. The hotel has 492 guest rooms and suites and 52 acres (21 hectares) of landscaped gardens, according to its website. It has said it will reopen to the public in mid-February, with a nightly rate for its cheapest room of 2,439 riyals ($650).
  16. Waleed al-Ibrahim was among some 350 suspects rounded up since November 4, including billionaire princes and ministers who were detained in Riyadh´s luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Friday released the owner of the influential Arab satellite network MBC nearly three months after his arrest in an anti-corruption drive targeting the kingdom´s elite, sources told AFP. Waleed al-Ibrahim was among some 350 suspects rounded up since November 4, including billionaire princes and ministers who were detained in Riyadh´s luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel. Ibrahim held a family gathering at his residence after his release, three MBC employees told AFP on condition of anonymity. The staff also received an official e-mail congratulating them on his freedom. The terms of his release are unclear but the government has said that most detainees have agreed on financial settlements in exchange for their freedom as the anti-corruption campaign winds down. The Financial Times reported earlier Friday that authorities had ordered Ibrahim to hand over his controlling stake in MBC to secure his release. Authorities have so far not commented on his case. The government on Friday also released a number of other detainees including Khaled Tuwaijri, former chief of the Saudi royal court, and Turki bin Nasser, former head of the country´s meteorology agency, a source close to the government told AFP. The government has released other high-profile detainees in recent weeks such as former National Guard chief Prince Miteb bin Abdullah following his "settlement" with authorities reportedly exceeding $1 billion. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old son of the king, has spearheaded the unprecedented crackdown on corruption among members of the government and royal family, as he consolidates his grip on power in the kingdom. The most high-profile target of the crackdown was billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, dubbed the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia. His fate remains unknown. Authorities have said most of those detained struck monetary settlements in exchange for their freedom, which could earn state coffers about $100 billion. The windfall settlements will help the government finance a multi-million dollar package announced by King Salman this month to help citizens cope with the rising cost of living, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan told Al Arabiya television in Davos on Wednesday. Some critics have labelled the campaign a shakedown, but authorities insist the purge was aimed to target endemic corruption as Saudi Arabia seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economy. The Ritz-Carlton is set to re-open for business next month as the campaign draws to an end, sources at the hotel have said. Its website lists rooms as available from February 14.
  17. The skyline of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia-AFP AL WAHBAH: Gazing at a shimmering salt pan below, a group of first-time Saudi hikers descended craggy slopes into a volcanic crater, part of a hidden trove of natural wonders being promoted to kickstart tourism. Saudi Arabia will soon begin issuing tourist visas, opening up one of the last frontiers of global tourism -- a sector touted as the desert kingdom´s "white oil" -- as it steps up diversification efforts to wean itself off its crude oil dependence. But the country, known for *** segregation and its austere dress code, is seen as an unlikely destination for global tourists aside from Muslim pilgrims visiting holy sites in Mecca and Medina. Now in the midst of historic social change, the kingdom is seeking a place on the global tourism map by promoting sites such as the Al Wahbah crater, widely unheard of even within Saudi Arabia with the near absence of local tourism. On a warm winter weekend, Amr Khalifa, a private tour operator, brought a group of first-time Saudi campers to hike to the bottom of the crater. Clutching hiking poles, the hikers picked their way through the slippery, boulder-strewn path to the salt pan. "I told my friends about Al Wahbah," said Jeddah-based corporate banker Mohamed Bahroon. "They had no clue." The little-known crater, barely a four-hour drive from the western city of Jeddah, is a remnant of volcanic activity -- local folklore, however, has it as having been formed when two mountains were so passionately in love that one uprooted itself to unite with the other, leaving a bowl-shaped depression in its place. In recent months, authorities have built roads and markers to the site and erected picnic shelters around the rim of the crater. "The key challenge is to make such tourism sites accessible," said Khalifa, adding that he only had one camping group at the site that weekend. ´Big treasure´ Tourism is one of the centrepieces of Vision 2030, the blueprint to prepare the biggest Arab economy for the post-oil era, which was conceived by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In August the kingdom announced a multi-million dollar project to turn 50 islands and other pristine sites on the Red Sea into luxury resorts. It also plans to develop historic sites such as the centuries-old Mada´in Saleh, home to sandstone tombs of the same civilisation which built the Jordanian city of Petra. The kingdom aims to nearly double the annual number of tourists it attracts to 30 million by 2030, with the sector projected to become one of its top revenue earners. Tourism chief Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz told AFP last month that preparations were afoot to launch electronic visas in the first quarter of 2018 to "all nationals whose countries allow their citizens to visit" the Gulf state. "The kingdom is a very big treasure," Prince Sultan said, describing its stunning landscapes. "We´re not just oil traders." In an effort to change perceptions, Saudi Arabia has relaxed some of its most rigid rules -- lifting a cinema ban, allowing gender-mixed sporting events and announcing that women will be allowed to drive from next June. But its absolute ban on alcohol still makes it a hard sell for many global tourists, experts say. Rumours have swirled about plans to create exclusive resorts for foreign tourists, which, similar to many expat compounds in Riyadh, would have more relaxed norms. But Prince Sultan said the kingdom, home to Islam´s holiest sites, would not permit alcohol as "we do not want to give up our culture and our local values". "Given the sensitivities of opening up to large numbers of non-Muslim tourists, I´d expect the authorities to focus more on encouraging local and regional visitors in the first instance, while the tourist infrastructure is developed," said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in the United States. "And then cautiously start to market the kingdom to the wider world." ´Travel breaks down barriers´ But global travel agencies such as Britain-based Steppes Travel are already planning to offer packaged tours. "There is a lot of potential for Saudi tourism -- we know this not least from the pent-up demand we have within our own database," Justin Wateridge, managing director of Steppes Travel, told AFP. "There is interest in those that know and understand Saudi Arabia and not much needs to change other than the issuing of tourist visas. Travel breaks down barriers and prejudice." Tourism is still a "new concept" for Saudi Arabia, said Khaled Batarfi, a Jeddah-based writer. "Serving others in our tribal heritage is unacceptable, except your own guest," he wrote in the Saudi Gazette newspaper, calling for the need for professional training. Back at Al Wahbah, that seems to be changing. When the hiking group emerged from the crater, guide Khalifa swung open the boot of his SUV to remove tents, folding chairs, firewood and platters of meat to set up camp near the rim. "When Saudis go camping they take their full house with them," he said as the group settled in for the chilly night. "That needs to change."
  18. Saudi Energy Minister Khaled al-Faleh talks to journalists during the 7th Meeting of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee in Muscat. Photo: AFP MUSCAT: Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia called Sunday for extending cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC producers beyond 2018, after a deal to cut output succeeded in shoring up prices. The call, the first explicit invitation by Riyadh for long-term cooperation between oil producers, came with oil prices topping $70 a barrel thanks to the deal, after they dove below $30 a barrel in early 2016. ?We should not limit our efforts to 2018. We need to be talking about a longer framework for our cooperation,? Saudi Energy Minister Khaled al-Faleh told reporters before a meeting between ministers of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC countries in the Omani capital, Muscat. At the end of the meeting, attended by several OPEC and non-OPEC countries including the world?s top producer Russia, Faleh said conformity levels were excellent. He said that compliance level was 129% in December and was 107% for the whole of 2017. The production cuts deal has removed two-thirds of the 330 million barrels of extra stocks that were on the market before the agreement, Faleh said. He said improvement in the oil market will continue throughout this year and expected ?beyond 2018, we will continue to cooperate through these joint action mechanisms ... to avoid strong fluctuations that led to the oversupply glut?. Oil producers from inside and outside the OPEC signed a landmark agreement in November 2016 to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day to fight oversupply and lift sagging prices. That deal was initially for six months, but the 14-member cartel and 10 independent producers have since extended it until the end of this year. ?We must not relax? Amid talk of exiting the deal at the end of the year, the Saudi minister said the agreement should be extended for an unspecified duration. ?I am talking about extending the framework that we started ? which is the declaration of cooperation... beyond 2018," Faleh told reporters. Faleh however said the new framework for cooperation might differ from the current agreement and its production quotas. ?It does not necessarily mean sticking barrel by barrel? to the same agreement. It would mean ?assuring stakeholders, investors, consumers and the global community that (the agreement) is here to stay?. It would send the message that ?we are going to work together not only with the 24 countries, but inviting more and more participants,? he said. Faleh said oil producers had not yet achieved their target of reducing world stocks to normal levels and striking a balance between supply and demand. ?That objective has not been achieved. We are not close to achieving it,? he said, adding that a rebalance is unlikely in the first half of 2018. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said oil producers should not ease off on their efforts despite the rebound. ?Despite the fact that progress is obvious, we must not relax. We are determined to carry through the rebalancing,? Novak, whose country is the world?s top crude producer, told reporters. Novak held separate talks with Faleh on the sidelines of the Muscat meeting. The Russian minister praised the outcome of the cuts deal. ?The market got on the way towards balancing and we jointly managed to reduce the surplus in stocks by more than half,? Novak said. ?Consultations? But Novak but appeared less committed to the idea of establishing a permanent framework. ?As for efforts to coordinate joint actions on the oil market, the last year showed that this is a successful experiment,? he told reporters, according to Russia?s RIA Novosti news agency. ?I think that if necessary it can be used in the future too.? But ?mutual action between OPEC and non-OPEC countries? could also continue after the end of the agreement in the form of ?consultations?, Novak added. Omani Oil Minister Mohamed al-Rumhi said different arrangements could be discussed. ?By the end of this year, the stock level will be very small and it will be time to discuss different arrangements or agreements,? he said. Gulf states as well as many oil-producing nations have posted huge budget shortfalls since oil prices plummeted in mid-2014.
  19. FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih addresses a news conference after an OPEC meeting in Vienna, Austria, November 30, 2017. REUTERS MUSCAT: Global oil producers are in agreement that they should continue cooperating on production after their deal on supply cuts expires at the end of this year, Saudi Arabia?s energy minister Khalid al-Falih said on Sunday. It was the first time Saudi Arabia, the world?s top oil exporter, had publicly stated OPEC and non-OPEC producers would keep cooperating after 2018. The exact mechanism for cooperation next year has not yet been decided, Falih said, but if oil inventories increase in 2018 as some in the market expect, producers might have to consider rolling the supply cut deal into next year. ?There is a readiness to continue cooperation beyond 2018... The mechanism hasn?t been determined yet, but there is a consensus to continue,? Falih said after a meeting of the joint ministerial committee which oversees implementation of the cuts. The committee comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Venezuela and Algeria, plus non-OPEC producers Russia and Oman. The United Arab Emirates was also present on Sunday as it holds the presidency of OPEC. Before the meeting, Falih said extending the cooperation framework beyond 2018 wouldn?t necessarily mean sticking to countries? current production targets. The agreement was launched last January and Saudi Arabia has accounted for by far the largest share of the output cuts. Falih said a deal on production levels after 2018 would be about ?assuring stakeholders, investors, consumers and the global community that this is something that is here to stay. And we are going to work together.? Kuwait?s oil minister Bakheet al-Rashidi said Sunday?s meeting focused on compliance with the current agreement on output cuts, and discussion of the deal?s future was expected to occur in June, when OPEC and other producers led by Russia are next scheduled to meet on oil policy. Oman?s oil minister Mohammed bin Hamad al-Rumhi said producers would discuss in November whether to renew their supply agreement or enter a new type of agreement. Oman is in favor of a new deal, he said without elaborating. Falih said the global economy had strengthened while the supply cuts had shrunk oil inventories around the world. As a result, the oil market was on course to rebalance towards the end of 2018 or in 2019, he said. But he stressed that producers still had a lot of hard work ahead to restore the market to health, and it was uncertain whether the current pace of the drawdown in oil inventories would continue in months to come. ?We are entering a low demand period seasonally, and we have to let that pass and see how inventories look in the second half before we consider any alteration? to current policy, he said. Falih and energy ministers from the UAE and Oman noted that the rise of the Brent oil price to three-year highs around $70 a barrel in recent weeks could cause an increase in supply of shale oil from the United States. But both Falih and UAE minister Suhail al-Mazroui said they did not think the rise in prices would hurt global demand for oil. OPEC has a self-imposed goal of bringing oil inventories in industrialized countries down to their five-year average. But Falih said that identifying the exact target for inventories had yet to be discussed by producers, and it might only become clearer in June. ?I don?t think that we are going to reach our target anytime soon, certainly not in the first half,? he told reporters before Sunday?s meeting. ?I think we have to identify more clearly what is the normal level because five-year average - which five-year? The longer we wait to reach that target, the more the running five-year average increases and represents bloated inventories. ?I think one of the things we need to define in the next few months, before we meet in June, is what is the real target more precisely, and that is work that still needs to be done, and we still need to reach a consensus.? Falih said the overall compliance of OPEC and non-OPEC nations with the production cuts was 129 percent in December. The next meeting of the joint ministerial committee overseeing implementation of the cuts will be held in April in Saudi Arabia, an OPEC statement said.
  20. Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud speaks as he approves 2018 budget during a cabinet meeting, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 19, 2017 - Reuters RIYADH: Saudi Arabia?s King Salman ordered a deposit of $2 billion to be paid into Yemen?s central bank on Wednesday to shore up the weak Yemeni currency, the Saudi government said. The move was made a day after the Yemeni prime minister issued a public plea for funds to prop up the rial and help stave off hunger in the war-torn country. ?It?s not a loan, it?s a deposit and the legitimate Yemeni government will not have to pay it back,? a source close to the Saudi government said. Yemen has been divided by nearly three years of civil war between the internationally recognized government, backed by Riyadh, based in the south, and the Iran-aligned Houthi movement which controls the north including the capital Sanaa. Its currency, the rial, has lost more than half its value against the US dollar and soaring prices have put some basic commodities out of reach for many Yemenis. Based in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen?s Central Bank has struggled to pay public sector salaries on which many Yemenis depend amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves. The conflict has unleashed a humanitarian and economic crisis on the impoverished country. A deadly cholera epidemic erupted last year, and the United Nations has said that Yemen could face one of the deadliest famines of modern times. ?Saving the rial means saving Yemenis from inevitable hunger,? Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghr said on Wednesday.
  21. File photo A ballistic missile fired by Yemen?s armed Houthi group towards Saudi Arabia's southern Jizan region was shot down by Saudi forces on Tuesday, Saudi state TV Ekhbariya reported. The station gave no further details. There were no reports of casualties or damage. The Houthis have fired several missiles at the kingdom, and while these have not caused any serious damage they have served to deepen tensions between Riyadh and its archrival Tehran. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of supplying missile parts and expertise to the Houthis, who have taken over the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and other parts of the country during its civil war. Iran denies the charge. Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition that has been fighting the Houthis in neighbouring Yemen since March 2015, after the movement drove Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile. Saudi Arabia said on Nov. 4 it had intercepted a ballistic missile over Riyadh's King Khaled Airport, an attack that led the coalition to close air, land and sea access to Yemen in a move it said was meant to stop Iranian supplies to the Houthis. The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced over two million and brought much of the country to the brink of famine.
  22. General view of the new first Saudi cinema at cultural club in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia January 13, 2018. Picture taken January 13, 2018 - Reuters 2 JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia began screening feature-length animated children?s films this weekend in a makeshift theatre, after a 35-year-old ban on cinemas was lifted. The first permanent theatres could open as early as March, part of a liberalizing reform drive that has already opened the door to concerts, comedy shows and women drivers over the past year. For now, the authorities are sponsoring temporary settings, like the state-run cultural hall in the Red Sea city of Jeddah equipped with a projector, a red carpet and a popcorn machine. ?Until now, there is no infrastructure for movie theatres, so we are trying to take advantage of (alternative) venues to approximate the cinematic form,? said Mamdouh Salim, whose Cinema 70 brand organized the week-long screenings. ?We tried to use these films to be a starting point as the first cinematic screening after the decision on Dec. 11 to permit movie theatres.? Cinemas were banned in the early 1980s as Saudi society turned towards a particularly conservative form of religion that discouraged public entertainment and public mixing between men and women. But reforms led by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have eased many of those restrictions, as the government tries to broaden the economy and lessen its dependence on oil. More Fun After watching The Emoji Movie with his wife and daughter on Sunday evening, 28-year-old Sultan al-Otaibi said Saudis are happy to see movies in the theatre instead of staying at home. People watch a movie at the first Saudi Arabia cinema ? Reuters ?It?s more comfortable, more fun to have a change of scenery and an activity on the weekend. It is a step that was very late in coming but thank God it?s happening now.? Thousands of Saudis currently travel to Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and other countries for entertainment. The government wants to retain the money spent on those trips. The authorities expect to open 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens by 2030, building an industry it hopes will contribute more than 90 billion riyals ($24 billion) to the economy and create 30,000 permanent jobs. Regional and international cinema chains are also eyeing the Saudi market, keen to tap the spending power of the young people who make up roughly 70 percent of the population. ?I want to see everything because it is something new for Saudi,? said 30-year-old movie-goer Ibtisam Abu Talib. ?I hope everything is available - action, romance, children?s films, comedy. Everything, God willing.?
  23. FILE PHOTO - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the meeting of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition defence ministers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 26, 2017./ Reuters RIYADH: Saudi Arabia?s public prosecutor has said he will pursue extradition for corruption suspects living abroad as part of a two-month-old crackdown that has already netted princes and tycoons. Evidence is being collected against ?fugitives? in order to issue indictments against them and request that foreign governments return them to the kingdom, Saud al-Muajab told Arrajol magazine in an interview published on Thursday. It was not clear how many people are being targeted, or in which countries. Saudi security forces have rounded up dozens of members of the political and business elite, holding them in Riyadh?s opulent Ritz Carlton hotel on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The move was billed as a war on rampant corruption but also widely seen by analysts as helping Prince Mohammed consolidate his grip on power after ousting his cousin as heir to the throne in the summer. Saudi officials are negotiating settlements with detainees, saying they aim to claw back some $100 billion of funds that rightfully belong to the state. Muajab said last month that most detainees had agreed to settlements in order to avoid prosecution while the rest could be held for several more months. He told Arrajol that those who end up in court will be permitted to hire lawyers to defend them during the investigation and trial phases.
  24. As part of the nationwide campaign, which started on November 15, 65,715 of the detainees have already been deported Saudi Arabia has arrested 337,281 foreigners in its latest crackdown on illegal immigrants, Gulf News reported. Those arrested include 198,231 who did not have valid residence permits and over 99,000 foreigners who did not have valid work permits. As part of the nationwide campaign, which started on November 15, 65,715 of the detainees have already been deported. The deported include Yeminis, Ethiopians and people from other African countries. Saudi Arabia in March last year announced a 90-day amnesty for illegal expatriates to leave the country without having to pay fines or facing legal action. The country had warned illegal expatriates of fines of 15,000 to 100,000 riyals if they failed to regularise their status or leave the country within the 90-day amnesty.
  25. The IPO could be the biggest in history and Saudi officials expect to raise as much as $100 billion-Reuters DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has changed the status of national oil firm Aramco to a joint-stock company as of Jan. 1, the kingdom?s official bulletin said on Friday, in a major step ahead of a planned initial public offering. Aramco has a fully paid capital of 60 billion riyals ($16 billion) divided into 200 billion ordinary shares, the bulletin said. The firm?s board will have 11 members and the power to list the company in domestic and international markets, it said. The sale of around 5 percent of Aramco, expected to go ahead in 2018, is a centerpiece of Vision 2030, a reform plan to reduce the dependence of the Saudi economy on oil. The plan is championed by the Saudi crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Saudi officials have said domestic and international exchanges such as New York, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong have been looked at for a partial listing of the state-run oil firm. The official bulletin said the government will propose 6 members of Aramco?s board, but shareholders with a more than 0.1 percent stake will have the right to propose a member to the general assembly. The government will remain the major shareholder of Aramco and retain the ultimate decision on national production levels, it said. The IPO could be the biggest in history and Saudi officials expect to raise as much as $100 billion. The official bulletin said Armaco?s IPO will comply with regulation of the Saudi stock exchange and also regulation of the international market where it will be listed. Investors have long debated whether Aramco could be valued anywhere close to $2 trillion, the figure announced by the crown prince, who wants to raise cash through the IPO to finance investment aimed at helping wean Saudi Arabia off its dependency on crude oil exports. A kingpin of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Saudi Arabia is also leading members and other oil producers such as Russia to restrict oil supplies under a global oil pact to drain global inventories and boost oil prices. Last November, OPEC and non-OPEC producers agreed to extend oil output cuts until the end of 2018 as they try to finish clearing a global glut of crude while signaling a possible early exit from the deal if the market overheats.