Jerusalem – The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that the Saudi leadership greeted visiting President George Bush with a message that Riyadh would not increase oil output. Officials said the message was relayed ahead of Mr. Bush’s arrival to the Arab kingdom on Friday.
“What they’re saying to us is Saudi Arabia does not have customers that are making requests for oil that they are not able to satisfy,” U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told the media accompanying President Bush in his one-day visit to Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
This marked the third U.S. request for a significant increase in Saudi oil production. On Friday, the price of a barrel of crude oil exceeded $127.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al Nueimi said the kingdom increased oil production by 300,000 barrels per day on May 10. He said production in June would reach 9.45 million barrels per day. The kingdom’s oil production capacity was reported at 11.3 million barrels.
“In the future if the need appears, Saudi Arabia has no objection to producing more,” Mr. Nuemi said.
During Mr. Bush’s visit, Saudi Arabia and the United States signed an agreement for the protection of Saudi institutions and energy infrastructure. The two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on a peaceful nuclear energy program.
“It’s something, but it doesn’t solve our problem,” Mr. Bush said on Saturday. “Our problem in America gets solved if we expand our refining capacity, promote nuclear energy and continue our strategy for the advancement of alternative energies.”
IDF, Pentagon Discuss Iran
Following the Bush visit to Israel, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Dan Harel met over the weekend with Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen for a discussion on the Iranian threat.
The meeting was held as part of the NATO Chiefs of Staff Conference in Brussels. According to sources, new information about Iran’s nuclear efforts nullifies the conclusions of the key American intelligence report, which said that Iran had stopped nuclear development for military purposes.
Maj. Gen. Harel also met with the chiefs of staff of 13 various countries. At each of the meetings, the progress of Iran in the development of nuclear arms was discussed, and the issue of Iranian involvement in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip was also raised.
Political officials in Jerusalem said on Saturday that Israel and the U.S. had agreed on intensive action against the Iranian nuclear program. They said that dealing with the Iranian threat will be much better when all the options are on the table and that the Iranians should be much more worried now.
The officials added that the declarations made by Mr. Bush at the Knesset have back up: “The strategic coordination about Iran is at a peak. In a private conversation, matters of supreme importance were agreed upon that will never be revealed.”
Rocket Fire Escalates In 2008
Rocket and mortar shellfire at the Negev continues. Six rockets were fired at the Gaza periphery communities over the weekend. On Friday, four rockets landed in the Erez area and near Sderot. Yesterday, another two rockets were fired, one landing near Kibbutz Mefalsim and one near Nir Yitzhak.
In addition, over the weekend eight mortar shells were fired, six on Friday and two on Saturday. They landed in the Nahal Oz, Karni, Kissufim and Gebim areas.
IDF officials are concerned about the escalation in the amount of rocket fire since the beginning of 2008. According to security establishment data, the extent of firepower in the four first months of 2008 is similar to that of all of 2007: about 1,200 rockets.
The scope of firepower since the beginning of the year is three times the amount fired in all of 2005, when 405 rockets were fired.
The rise in the amounts parallels an upgrade in the quality and range of the rockets, to include Ashkelon and to some extent also Netivot in the circle of fire. All of this, in addition to the mortar shellfire carried out routinely, has also caused a rise in the number of victims. Since the beginning of the year, three people have been killed, in contrast to two killed all during 2007.
IDF officials are also concerned about the increase of Grad rocket fire. Last Thursday, a day after the Grad rocket fire at Ashkelon, another rocket of the same type was fired, this time at Netivot.
About 30 landings of this type of rocket were located over the past two months in Ashkelon, which has become a target for rocket fire.
At 3 a.m. on Friday, IDF forces identified a mortar shell launching cell in the Beit Hanoun area. The cell was attacked, and two terrorists were killed.
On Saturday, terrorists fired an RPG rocket at engineering construction work being done between Nirim and Nir Oz. No one was hurt, but the equipment was damaged.
Yesterday afternoon, a Palestinian tried to cross the security fence near Anin, northwest of Jenin. An IDF force that arrived at the site arrested the Palestinian and found a 12-centimeter-long knife on his body. The knife was confiscated and the Palestinian was transferred for questioning to the security forces.
Israel Threatens Hamas Through Egypt
Israel’s indirect negotiations with Hamas to achieve a cessation in missile attacks in the south resumed this week, when Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak tried to advance the issue during their meetings in Egypt with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt, by means of Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman, also transmitted a clear message on Saturday to Hamas: Include Cpl. Gilad Shalit in the deal or expect a serious Israel military operation.
Egypt is hosting the World Economic Forum on the Middle East conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, and yesterday, the foreign minister took part in the conference, in the course of which she met with Mr. Mubarak. This was Ms. Livni’s first meeting in Egypt since the end of her clash with the top administrative echelon in Cairo, against the backdrop of her accusation that Egypt was overlooking arms’ smuggling from its territory into the Gaza Strip. In addition to Ms. Livni, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu also attended the conference and met with Mr. Mubarak and International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohammed ElBaradei.
According to a report in a Lebanese newspaper, Mr. Suleiman told Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal’s deputy, Moussa Abu-Marzouk, that Israel will set out on large military operations against the movement and other resistance factions should the parties not reach a prisoner exchange deal. The Palestinian sources who quoted Mr. Suleiman noted that Hamas is inclined to make its conditions on the matter more flexible, but it is still not prepared to accept the list of prisoners that Israel has agreed to release in exchange for the return of Cpl. Shalit. In the view of Hamas, this group of prisoners is too low-level. “Cairo is pressuring Hamas to subtract some the conditions it has presented, thus easing the implementation of the deal with Israel,” said the Palestinians. “Israel, for its part, is inclined to accept calm, on condition that it leads to the release of Shalit.”
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008