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Saudi 2013 GDP up 3.8%: central bank

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia's GDP grew by 3.8 percent in 2013, media on Sunday quoted Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) governor Fahad al-Mubarak as saying. The International Monetary Fund said last May that it expected growth in the largest Arab economy to fall to 4.4 percent in 2013 from 6.8 percent the previous year, blaming an anticipated drop in oil production and government spending. Mubarak said the 2013 budget surplus was 180 billion riyals ($48 bn), or 6.5 percent of gross domestic product.

Saudi Arabia loans Pakistan $1.5 billion to shore up economy

By Mehreen Zahra-Malik ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia loaned $1.5 billion to Pakistan last month to help Islamabad shore up its foreign exchange reserves, meet debt-service obligations and undertake large energy and infrastructure projects, Pakistani officials have told Reuters. The Saudi assistance has contributed to a sharp recovery of the Pakistani rupee, which rose to a nine-month high of 97.40 from 105.40 against the dollar between March 4 and 12, its strongest rally in 30 years.

UAE summons Iraq envoy to protest Saudi terror accusations

The United Arab Emirates summoned Iraq's ambassador on Wednesday to protest accusations by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that Saudi Arabia was supporting terrorism, state media reported. State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash handed ambassador Mowafak Mahdi Abboud a memorandum protesting Maliki's "claims that Saudi Arabia supports terrorism," the official WAM news agency said.

Saudi Arabia backs global 'terrorism': Iraq PM

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia of supporting global "terrorism," both inside the Arab world and in other countries, in an interview broadcast Saturday. Maliki, in an interview with France 24, slammed "the dangerous Saudi stance" of supporting "terrorism in the world -- it supports it in Syria and Iraq and Lebanon and Egypt and Libya and even in countries outside" the Arab world. mah-wd/psr/hkb

Saudi women activists demand end to 'absolute' male control

Saudi women activists have petitioned the country's consultative council to back a demand to curb the "absolute authority" of male guardians over women in the ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom, a signatory said. Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians. It is also the only country in the world that bans women from driving, and a woman cannot obtain an identification card without the consent of her guardian.

Japan asks Saudi Arabia to scrap restrictions on Japanese food imports

Japan requested Tuesday that Saudi Arabia relax or eliminate import restrictions on Japanese food products, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. Parliamentary Senior Vice Foreign Minister Nobuo Kishi lodged the request in a meeting in Tokyo with Nizar bin Obaid Al Madani, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs. Madani said the Middle East country will study the request with high interest, the ministry said.

Saudi executes 10th convict this year

A Saudi citizen convicted of murder was beheaded on Sunday, the interior ministry announced, bringing the number of executions in the kingdom this year to 10. Salem al-Jahdali beat fellow tribesman Abdullah al-Jahdali to death following a dispute, the ministry said in a statement published by the official SPA news agency. The execution took place in the holy western city of Mecca. The ultra-conservative kingdom beheaded 78 people in 2013, according to an AFP count.

Insight: Fears of Syria militancy expand influence of Saudi prince

By Angus McDowall RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef, perhaps the most powerful younger prince in the ruling al-Saud family, is shaping Riyadh's new emphasis on protecting the kingdom from a fresh wave of Islamist militancy inspired by the war in Syria. The United States pulled out the stops for him when he visited Washington last week to prepare for President Barack Obama's fence-mending trip to Riyadh next month.

Waseda Univ. confers honorary doctorate on Saudi crown prince

Japan's Waseda University honored Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud with an honorary doctorate in law on Friday. The university presented the crown prince with the degree in appreciation of his work to "strengthen relations with Japan," Waseda President Kaoru Kamata said during the conferral ceremony. In a speech, the crown prince thanked Japan on behalf of Saudi Arabian exchange students studying in the country and said he has "high respect for Japan's efforts to build an advanced nation."

Rights groups criticise Saudi-Indonesia maid agreement

Rights groups Thursday criticised an agreement between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia aimed at giving Indonesian maids more protection in the kingdom, with one saying "justice is still far away" for them. Saudi Arabia is the world's biggest destination for Indonesian maids, with around one million in the kingdom. However Indonesia placed a moratorium on sending new maids to the country in 2011 after a helper was beheaded for murdering her employer. Authorities failed to inform Jakarta in advance of the execution.
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