My dear brothers, members of the Shura:
In the name of God Almighty, I open this session of the Council's third term, thanking Him for his numerous bounties.
The people of Saudi Arabia, taking into account their Islamic and Arab values, oppose all forms of terrorism, and will never allow any faction of deviant terrorists to harm the country and undermine the safety of its citizens and residents. We will not allow any deviant ideology that encourages and feeds terrorism, even if this deviant ideology tries to masquerade as pious: because the true religion has nothing to do with terrorism or even the very idea of terrorism.
This nation is determined to eradicate all forms of terrorism, and will, with God's grace and the cooperation of its citizens, be capable of realizing that goal.
While rejecting intervention in our domestic affairs from any party under any pretext, at the same time we desire to make our domestic affairs open to revision, to allow reform. Reform is an essential matter, and we should not be affected by those who try to fish in troubled waters by alleging that attempts at reform are merely the result of foreign pressure. It is well known to all Saudis that the progress of reform has remained uninterrupted, and will continue, with God's grace.
You are aware of all that has been achieved in the area of reform in the political, administrative, economic and social spheres, and there is no need for elaboration in reviewing briefly what has been attained in this respect.
Brothers, members of the Shura:
You have been true partners of the government in the field of political and administrative development. I would like to point out a number of initiatives pertaining to revision of the governmental structure, which originated at your Council. These were discussed and studied in detail, and the reformulation of the Council of Ministers embodies these initiatives, while others are still under consideration. I would also like to highlight the significance of the systems pertaining to filing lawsuits and criminal procedures, which were studied in depth by your respected Council, and by God's grace were issued as laws to facilitate procedures in this respect, to make justice accessible to all citizens, and to protect them from violations by public authorities.
Similarly, I have given approval for the establishment of a non-government body to be concerned with human rights, as advocated by Islam itself; and for it to be followed by a government agency that will also be concerned with human rights. This development will make the efforts of the State and those of the citizens come together to protect Man's dignity, which the Creator has ordained to be preserved for all his faithful servants.
I would like to confirm that we will continue on the path of political and economic reform, and we will work to improve our system of government and the performance of the public sector. We will broaden popular participation in the political process and open wider horizons for women in the economy, within the framework of the teachings of Islam. It goes without saying that your respected Council will play its role in realizing these desired reforms.
In the economic sphere, the State has initiated a great many measures that aim at freeing the economy from routine obstacles, encouraging investors from both inside and outside the Kingdom, privatizing economic assets, and facilitating citizens' ownership of them. Further initiatives are targeting the tourism sector, and revision of the taxation system. The establishment of the Supreme Economic Council and the creation of a Ministry of Economy and Planning provide clear evidence of the attention the government gives to the economy.
Economic reform is a continuous process and is of vital importance. The development of our country and the improvement of the quality of life for all citizens will depend on its success. While speaking about economic reform, I would like to focus on two major problems, namely unemployment and poverty.
You are fully aware of the State's efforts for Saudization of jobs. You know that it is an important matter to overcome the problem of unemployment through additional efforts to make available educational and training opportunities for our sons and daughters, in addition to revision of academic specializations in a manner that meets our society's requirements for technicians and vocational cadres.
With respect to poverty, the State has taken a pioneering initiative that sheds clear light on the problem. Saudi experts have conducted in-depth studies pertaining to the phenomenon of poverty, and we hope that these will conclude in beneficial recommendations for the citizens and that they will everywhere feel their positive impact.
The progress of reform, however, will only bear fruit in an atmosphere of social harmony that is rooted in national unity. In this context, it has to be noted that national unity holds no place for the views of extremists and requires a clear atmosphere of brotherly and calm dialogue. Taking on a mainstream and moderate attitude is the responsibility of each citizen; but it is the responsibility of our ulama [religious scholars] on whom we depend, to preach the tolerance that is characterized by our Shariah [Islamic law] and to save our young people from the evil of destructive thoughts that propagate extremism and hatred and only result in devastation and ruin.
We have learned from experiences in the east as well as the west that true reform is reform that emerges from the nation's faith and heritage; that is accepted by the nation willingly without coercion; and that comes gradually, avoiding both destructive haste and lethal slowness. This method of reform is one that we go along with in trust and belief.
No one can ignore the seriousness of our move towards reform, in a developmental pattern that satisfies us and with a credibility that is based upon deeds not words. And I say to every citizen that each one of us has a role and a responsibility in this endeavor, and there is no time for dependency and blaming others and casting doubts about the truth and integrity of the one who wants the reform. I say to each government official that public service is an honor, which has obligations to the public good, but does not convey any special privileges. I say to every businessman that our economy is not just a source of capital and profit, but it is an investment in national security and safety. I say to every woman - sister or mother or daughter or wife - that this nation is for all and you will be a partner in making its future.
And I say to officials in education - in all its stages - that they are shapers of future generations. Good education promotes character and instills values in the young for the benefit of this nation. Defects in education, however, and God forbid there be any, are a major cause of moral or intellectual deviation and of deficiency in work and participation.
And I say to media personnel and to intellectuals that the media is not for propaganda, and culture is not for prestige. Furthermore, national unity and the State's presence in the international arena depend on responsible media and on a pioneering and diverse cultural movement.
And I say to every citizen that one of the most important obligations is to confront narrow-mindedness, regionalism and social division. Confronting these ills is a requirement of our faith and contributes to national unity.
I say, also, to members of the Shura Council, as I do to members of the provincial councils, that it is required of each of you to improve your methods and shoulder your responsibility in participating in and monitoring the performance of the administrative bodies. I say to all, there is no place among us for anyone who tries to benefit from his position or for an opportunist who exploits his influence.
There is no doubt that you, as we did, felt pain at the bloody events that took place in brotherly Iraq. We exerted every effort to forestall these events. Moreover, we are still exerting our best efforts to deal with their impact and consequences. We hope that Iraq will emerge from its ordeal and return as an independent and prosperous Arab nation that lives peacefully with its neighbors. In this context, we would like to note the responsible stance of the Saudi people. They have followed the developments with wisdom and awareness and they have been concerned about Iraq's territorial integrity. The Saudi people stand with the Iraqi people, extending their assistance and support for the rebuilding of their country.
Saudi Arabia's commitment to the pivotal Arab cause of Palestine and to achievement of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, is still the key element of the Kingdom's foreign policy.
In this context, the Kingdom has supported all initiatives aimed at revival of the peace process including the 'road map', and the Arab initiative that was proposed by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by the Arab countries at the Beirut Summit; and has urged that these be adopted by the United Nations Security Council.
In this regard, the hostile aggression being committed by Israel in the Palestinian territories should be halted and protection should be provided for the Palestinians to carry out their responsibilities. The international community, notably the United States and the countries of the European Union, should exert enough effort to prevent Israel from taking such an obstinate stance if it continues its economic and political siege against the Palestinians and refuses to accept the 'road map'.
The world we live in is at a crossroads, since ideals have been altered, certain coalitions terminated, and other groupings formed. The principles of international order have receded. The information revolution has affected all international foundations: social, economic and political. Every country is dealing with these changes and trying to understand them and relate to them with their cultural, social and political realities. They also aim at linking them to their historical heritage and values. We are part of this world and we cannot be disconnected from it. We cannot be mere spectators while the rest of the world is progressing towards a new global system. This country is the heart of the Muslim World, and the cradle of Arab identity.
Therefore, we should rise to the challenges. We will not be able to do so until we have a grip on our tolerant belief and maintain our national unity - which is our message inside and outside the Kingdom - and support each other in carrying out responsibilities and duties.