Mideast peace push focus of No. 10 talks
Published: 1st November 2007

LONDON: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had a "meeting of minds" in talks last night with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on taking forward the Middle East peace process. On the second official day of the king's state visit, the two leaders had "very positive" discussions on Middle East regional issues. The talks were held at Brown's office in Downing Street in London. "They also talked about education internationally as one of the ways of combating extremism and terrorism," a spokesman said.

King Abdullah later held talks with Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, and David Cameron, the main opposition Conservative Party's leader.

* King Abdullah will make an unprecedented visit to the Vatican next week. He will have an audience with Pope Benedict XVI on November 6.

Queen hails Riyadh's peace role

LONDON: British monarch Queen Elizabeth has praised Saudi Arabia for its fight against terrorism and its campaign for peace in the Middle East.

She was speaking as she hosted a state banquet for Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah during his official visit to London.

The Queen called for stronger co-operation and increased mutual understanding, to combat those who seek to use religion to divide the world.

"Our friendly relations go back many years. There are times when we have worked together against threats to our common security," she told King Abdullah in her speech at the banquet.

"And whilst times change, I believe that the links and knowledge, the experience and the friendships that have been built up over the last hundred years still stand us in good stead today and will do in the future.

"We have shared values that stem from two great religious traditions based on Abrahamic faiths.

"In a world where some people seek to exploit religion to undermine our

societies, we must continue to work together to promote common values, strengthen mutual understanding, and encourage appreciation of what is best in both our cultures."

The Queen praised Saudi Arabia's progress and role in the Middle East peace drive. "We have watched with great interest your work to lead the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia forward, whilst respecting its traditions and deeply held beliefs,"

she said.

"We have appreciated and admired Saudi Arabia's role in the search for a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, in particular Your Majesty's own personal contribution through the Arab Peace Initiative. We will continue to support your efforts in the cause of peace in the region."

Relations between the two countries go back many years, said the Queen. "Many British people have benefited from Saudi hospitality over the years as traders, experts and advisers," she said.

"Twenty-five thousand British nationals carry out pilgrimage annually to Mecca and to Medina and they are particularly grateful for the enormous effort that the Saudi authorities put

into ensuring a safe and

successful visit.

"The relationship between us has grown deeper and wider as you are working to diversify Saudi Arabia's economy.

"The two-way exchange of trade and investment is flourishing, with this country now benefiting from inward investment from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, while links between our armed forces are stronger than ever.

"Co-operation in education and training is expanding with the welcome help and encouragement of the British Council.

"We also continue to work together against the terrorists who threaten the way of life of our citizens in both countries, and in the search for a more peaceful and stable Middle East, to the benefit of all its peoples.

November 1, 2007
Pope to meet King Abdullah of Saudi
Richard Owen in Rome

Pope Benedict XVI is to meet King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia next week in the first talks between a Saudi monarch and a Pope.

The Vatican said the precedented meeting would take place at the Vatican on Tuesday. King Abdullah has been paying a visit to Britain as part of a European tour. The Pope has sought to promote Christian-Muslim dialogue, and last month October opened a three day inter faith conference at Naples which included Muslim representatives.

The Vatican does not have formal diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, and relations have been strained, with the Holy See demanding "reciprocity" in religious observance. While Muslims are free to practice their faith in the West Christians are not given the same rights in Saudi Arabia. Bibles and crosses are confiscated at the border.

From the Muslim point of view tensions were increased by the Pope himself last year after Benedict, speaking at Regensburg University in his native Bavaria, quoted from a Byzantine Emperor who had suggested Islam was inherently violent. He said he was misunderstood and later expressed his esteem for Muslims.

Last month the Pope met the Saudi Foreign Minister at Castalgandolfo, his summer residence outside Rome, to discuss the Middle East and the "defence of religious and moral values".

Rome, 25 Oct. (AKI) - Five Christian clerics from Italy's top Islamic studies institute have praised the 29-page letter to the Pope issued earlier this month by 138 scholars from every sect of Islam that warned the "survival of the world" is at stake if Muslims and Christians do not make peace.

"We are convinced of the good faith of those who produced it," wrote Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, rector of the Rome-based Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) in letter that was also signed by PISAI's dean of studies Etienne Renaud, and PISAI professors Michel Lagarde, Valentino Cottini and Felix Phiri.

"We were impressed by the broad scope of this text. Its breadth at the level of the signatories...Muslim personalities from numerous countries of every continent...there was breadth also at the level of the addressees."

The letter issued on 11 Oct. by the Muslim scholars from all over the world was addressed to 28 leaders of different Christian churches, including the head of the Catholic church, Pope Benedict XVI.

"The authors of the letter do not seek refuge in a convenient one-sided protest on behalf of the umma [community of Muslims], but on the contrary, place themselves as partners within humanity," commented the five Christian clerics in their letter.

"The broad sweep of its perspectives is also a noteworthy feature of the text," they said.

They also praised "evidence of deep respect and genuine attentiveness to others," and "a true scientific spirit."

"In this respect, also, we note the emergence of a new attitude," the clerics said.

Their letter is the first response by Christian clerics in Italy to the Muslim religious leaders' 11 Oct. letter. The Vatican has not so far issued an official response.

A letter to the Pope from 38 top Muslim clerics in various countries issued in October 2006 accepted the pontiff's expressions of regret for a controversial speech on Islam he gave the previous month in Regensburg, Germany.

But the October 2006 letter also points out "errors" and "mistakes" in the Pope's speech, which angered Muslims by linking Islam and violence and questioned the concept of holy war or 'Jihad'.

The Pope did not apologize for his Regensburg address, but said he regretted the offense it had caused among Muslims.