Nayef bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia's interior minister, has been named the new crown prince of that Middle Eastern nation.
The news, citing a royal decree signed by King Abdullah, was announced early Friday on state-run Saudi Television.
Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the king's half-brother, died Saturday in New York. His funeral was held three days later in Riyadh.
His death raised succession questions in the key oil-producing country at a time of turmoil in the Arab world.
As was the case with his predecessor, the move makes Nayef bin Abdulaziz the heir to the Saudi throne.FULL STORY
Manssor Arbabsiar, one of two men implicated in an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, pleaded not guilty Monday in federal court in New York.
The second man indicted in the alleged plot, Gholam Shakuri, remains at large.
U.S. officials arrested Arbabsiar, 56, on suspicion that he conspired with Shakuri, allegedly an Iran-based member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, to hire hit men from a Mexican drug cartel to set off a bomb at a restaurant to be visited by Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry has said the assassination-for-hire accusations are baseless.FULL STORY
Iran is willing to look at evidence that an Iranian man plotted to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, the country's foreign minister said Monday, even as he denied the allegations had "the necessary basis in fact."
"We are prepared to consider any issue, even if it is falsely created, with patience. We have asked the Unites States to provide us with the relevant information regarding this scenario," Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the Islamic Republic News Agency.
The U.S. State Department said last last week there had been direct contact with Iran about the alleged plot, but a senior Iranian official denied it.
Two State Department officials said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice met with Mohammad Khazaee, Iran's permanent representative to the United Nations.
But the Iranian mission in New York denied it.
"There were no kinds of negotiations between the two countries, and there was not such a contact," said Alireza Miryousefi, press secretary for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations.FULL STORY
Saudi Arabia's 87-year-old ruler, King Abdullah, arrived Sunday at a Riyadh hospital to undergo his third back surgery within a year, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Surgeons were to tighten a binding connector around his third vertebra, the agency said.
Abdullah last had back surgery in December at New York's Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center for a herniated disc and a blood clot that were causing him back pain. He spent several weeks in Morocco undergoing physical therapy.FULL STORY
Editor's note: The U.S. Justice Department says the FBI and the DEA have disrupted a plot involving Iran to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States and commit other attacks. Two men - one arrested, the other at large - have been charged in connection with the alleged plot, which the Justice Department says was directed by elements of the Iranian government.
The Justice Department says one of the men – Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen holding an Iranian passport - arranged to hire for the assassination someone in Mexico who he thought was an associate of a drug trafficking cartel. The person in Mexico actually was a DEA confidential source who was posing as a cartel associate, the Justice Department says.
Here are the latest developments in the story on Wednesday:
[Posted at 12:29 p.m. ET] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the alleged attempted assassination of Saudi Arabia's U.S. ambassador by Iranian operatives is the "kind of reckless act" which "undermines international norms and the international system."
"Iran must be held accountable," Clinton said.
Clinton said the U.S. government will continue to work to isolate the Iranian regime.
[Posted at 11:48 a.m. ET] Mahan Air, an Iranian commercial airline, has been sanctioned by the United States for its ties to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday.
[Posted at 7:27 a.m. ET] Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal said he believes "someone in Iran is going to have to pay the price" for the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
Al-Faisal, a key member of the royal family, was speaking at conference in London Wednesday. Al-Faisal's representatives said the remark was his personal view and not the official Saudi position.
Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns plans to brief the diplomatic corps Wednesday at the State Department on an alleged Iranian assassination-for-hire scheme targeting Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States.
An official described it as an "informational briefing" and said that Burns will explain the details of how it went down, how the Obama administration handled it and the need to hold Iran accountable.
The U.S. government is also expected to take an even stronger stance against Iran, which is already the subject of numerous sanctions.FULL STORY
To a friend of more than 20 years, Manssor Arbabsiar was a man who liked to be called "Jack" and didn't seem to have strong views on politics or religion.
To U.S. authorities, the 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen is a suspect in an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States.
"It was shocking because it didn't seem like he would be the type of person to do something like that," said Mitchel Hamauei, who said he met Arbabsiar through mutual Iranian friends.
"He was a happy go lucky guy, always joked around," Hamauei said. "He had a really happy demeanor."
Hamauei, who runs a gyro and kebab restaurant in Corpus Christi, Texas, said the two were close enough that he attended the graduation of Arbabsiar's son.
Arbabsiar was a used car salesman, Hamauei said. Their conversations would be about "life in general," he said. "Nothing religious. Nothing political."
"He would go out and party," Hamauei said. "As far as I know he never practiced religion."FULL STORY
With many sanctions already in place, the U.S. government is poised to take an even stronger stance Wednesday against Iran amid allegations that Tehran was behind a plot to assassinate a Saudi envoy on U.S. soil.
Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called carrying out such a scheme an "act of war" five times during a five-minute CNN interview.
While outlining several other steps that Washington may take, he insisted that no options be ruled out.
"We should not be ... automatically saying we're not going to have military action," King said Tuesday night, claiming that this "flagrant and notorious" alleged plot brought already testy relations between the United States and Iran to a "very precipitous level."
"Everything should be left on the table when you are talking about a potential attack (in) the United States, an act of war."
Mohammad Khazaee, Iran's permanent representative to the United Nations, told CNN Tuesday night that he was "shocked to hear such a big lie."
He claimed the chain of events outlined by U.S. authorities was an "insult to the common sense" of people everywhere.
A senior U.S. defense official said Tuesday that there has been no change in U.S. military posture in reaction to the alleged terror plot.
No U.S. Navy ships, for example, have been repositioned and there currently are no plans to do so.
"The act is already done," the official said, noting the plot purportedly has been disrupted and calling it "much more of a law enforcement matter" than a military one.FULL STORY
Editor's note: The FBI and the DEA have disrupted a plot involving Iran to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States and commit other attacks, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Two men - one arrested, the other at large - have been charged in connection with the plot, which the Justice Department says was directed by elements of the Iranian government.
The Justice Department says one of the men - Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen holding an Iranian passport - arranged to hire for the assassination someone in Mexico who he thought was an associate of a drug trafficking cartel. The person in Mexico actually was a DEA confidential source who was posing as a cartel associate, the Justice Department says.
Follow below for the latest developments and read the Justice Department complaint (PDF).
[Updated at 8:09 p.m. ET] In their investigation into an alleged plot to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, federal agents interrogated suspect Manssor Arbabsiar for 12 days, a senior counterterrorism official said Tuesday.
Cooperation from Mexican officials played a key role in the investigation, the official said. U.S. authorities arranged with Mexican officials for Arbabsiar to be denied entry into Mexico, the official said.
From there, he was placed on an airplane to New York, where he was taken into custody and quietly taken to a U.S. government facility, the counterterrorism official said. U.S. authorities interviewed him there every day and compiled dozens of intelligence reports.
[Updated at 8:04 p.m. ET] Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss released a statement Tuesday, congratulating the FBI, DEA and other federal agencies involved in the case.
"While I believe our justice system will deal appropriately with the defendant in custody, our government must also deal with the Iranian regime," Chambliss said. "In addition to allegedly sponsoring this plot, Iran has supported and provided weapons for attacks on our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has continued far too long with no repercussions."
[Updated at 7:41 p.m. ET] Iran's UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee responded to U.S. accusations that the Iranian government was involved in a murder-for-hire plot Tuesday night, telling CNN's Erin Burnett that the whole thing was "a lie."
“The whole issue is a provocation against Iran," Khazaee said. "We strongly reject this accusation," he said, suggesting that the narrative was a "blatant" ploy by Washington to terrorize the American public.
[Updated at 7:41 p.m. ET] Tom Kean, former chairman of the 9/11 Commission said the alleged plot "surprises me." Speaking to CNN's Erin Burnett, Kean said the plot is "pretty close to an act of war. You don’t go in somebody’s capital to blow somebody up.”
[Updated at 7:07 p.m. ET] New York Rep. Peter King, speaking to CNN’s Erin Burnett, said the alleged Iranian plot should be taken seriously by U.S. officials. “This would have been an act of war [if carried out]. It has raised this relationship, between the United States and Iran, to a very precipitous level,” King said.
“This violates all international norms, it violates all international laws. ... We can’t allow this to go without a strong reaction," King, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee," told CNN.
After saying he would back whatever action the administration might take, King said “we should at least consider a sign of military action. ... something to indicate how seriously we're taking this." He added that U.S. officials should even consider removing Iranian diplomats from the country. “I think everything should be kept on the table.”
[Updated at 6:52 p.m. ET] A spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that the alleged plot was "a child's story" and "a fabrication."
The Iranian government was awaiting details about the accusations, spokesman Ali Akbar Javanfekr said. He suggested U.S. authorities were attempting to distract American citizens.
"They want to take the public's mind off the serious domestic problems they're facing these days and scare them with fabricated problems outside the country," he said.
[Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET] Mexican immigration officials blocked Manssor Arbabsiar, now accused of plotting to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, from entering Mexico last month, Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement released Tuesday.
Mexican immigration authorities blocked his entry because of an arrest warrant issued by the United States, the foreign ministry said. U.S. authorities later arrested him in New York, it said.
[Updated at 5:57 p.m. ET] U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in recent weeks went to Saudi Arabia to brief Saudi King Abdullah on the terror plot, a senior administration official familiar with the terror plot said, according to CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
The Saudis were “outraged" not only because of the plot, but because the ambassador is "someone who is close to the king,” the official said.
The Obama administration has specific information tying senior officials in Iran's Quds Force - a special unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - the official said. One question, according to the official, is whether the Quds officials were freelancing or got approval from senior officials in the Iranian regime.
The administration intends to “go to other countries and say this is a serious escalation of Iran’s use of political violence,” the official said. “Some may build on their sanctions; some could cut off relations with the IRGC.”
[Updated at 5:37 p.m. ET] Mexico's foreign ministry, explaining why Arbabsiar was denied entry into Mexico on September 28, says Mexican immigration officials blocked him because of an arrest warrant issued by the United States.
U.S. authorities arrested Arbabsiar a day later in New York, where he had flown after being denied entry into Mexico, the U.S. Justice Department has said. The Justice Department says Arbabsiar had intended to go to Mexico to guarantee final payment for an assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Arbabsiar had arranged to hire someone for the assassination that he thought was a drug cartel associate, but actually was a DEA confidential source, the Justice Department says.
"In strict compliance with domestic and international law, Mexico was able to neutralize a significant risk to Mexico’s national security, while at the same time reinforcing bilateral and reciprocal cooperation with the United States," the Mexican foreign ministry said in a statement released Tuesday. "This operation confirmed that adequate mechanisms and procedures are in place to anticipate and prevent the presence in Mexico of individuals that pose a risk to national security and interests."
[Updated at 5:03 p.m. ET] U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that the United States "will be consulting with our friends and partners around the world about how we can send a very strong message that this kind of action, which violates international norms, must be ended."
She also said the United States would consult with nations about possibly taking measures to "further isolate (Iran) from the international community."
The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia said Wednesday that it has received information that a terrorist group may be planning to abduct Westerners in Riyadh.
The embassy passed along the notice in an emergency message for U.S. citizens.
"The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh reminds all U.S. citizens to exercise prudence and enhanced security awareness at all times," it said.
"We deemed the information to be credible, or would not have issued the emergency message," Deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
He would not comment on specific intelligence, but said there was no reason for U.S. citizens to leave Saudi Arabia as a result of the message.
- CNN's Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.
A day after Saudi King Abdullah announced greater political participation for women in the future, some Saudis questioned just how big a change may really be on the horizon.
Some women's rights activists who were initially elated by Sunday's announcement said they were feeling disappointed because the changes do not kick in immediately. "We don't really think now that we've been promised a real right," said one.
But a member of Saudi Arabia's Consultative Council called one of the changes the king announced "hugely important."
King Abdullah announced two changes Sunday, which would be historic for Saudi Arabia. He said women will be allowed to serve as members of the Shura Council, the Consultative Council that advises the king. Its 150 members are appointed.
The king also said women will be allowed to run as candidates and nominate candidates in the next set of municipal elections. It is unknown when those may ultimately take place.
The changes do not apply to elections scheduled for this Thursday - which will be only the second set of elections in the kingdom since 1963.
While the king did not use the word "vote" in his remarks, allowing women to take part in the nomination process would amount to voting within Saudi Arabia's system.FULL STORY
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah condemned the crackdown on anti-government protesters in Syria on Sunday, saying there is "no justification for the bloodshed."
In an audio message that aired on Saudi state television Sunday night, Abdullah said the kingdom had recalled its ambassador from Damascus for consultations.
His statement puts the leader of one of the leading powers in the region behind calls for an end to the violence. In his remarks Sunday night, he said Syria's future "lies between two choices - either wisdom or chaos."FULL STORY
Jeddah Tower will be 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) tall and will contain a Four Seasons luxury hotel, apartments, condominiums and offices that overlook the Red Sea, Financial Times reported.
Kingdom Holding is paying Bin Laden Group, one of the world's largest construction companies, about $1.2 billion to take on the five-year project, according to Financial Times.
Saudi Bin Laden Group was founded in 1931 by Muhammad Awad bin Laden, the billionaire father of terrorist Osama bin Laden. It built much of Saudi Arabia's highways and infrastructure, as well as entire districts and cities.
The company constructed additions to the Muslim nation's two holiest mosques in Mecca and Medina. It operates throughout the Middle East and was chosen in 1964 to reclad the golden Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem.
Over the years, Saudi Bin Laden Group has expanded into a conglomerate that includes engineering, manufacturing and telecommunications, according to business analysis site Hoovers.com.
Osama bin Laden, the 17th of 52 children, inherited part of his father's fortune, but his radical activities led the family to disown him in 1994.
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, a nephew of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, announced the tower building contract Tuesday. He owns 95% of Kingdom Holding, according to Financial Times.
When completed, Jeddah Tower will easily surpass Dubai's 828-meter (2,717-foot) Burj Khalifa as the world's tallest building.
The Chicago firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture designed the project and will oversee its development, Gulfnews.com reported. Adrian Smith was one of Burj Khalifa's designers when he was with Skidmore Owings and Merrill.
Saudi women have been encouraged to challenge the status quo and get behind the wheel Friday.
The initiative is called "Women2Drive," a campaign demanding the right for women to drive and travel freely in Saudi Arabia.
Though there are no traffic laws that make it illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, religious edicts are often interpreted as a ban against female drivers. One female motorist spent more than a week in custody in May, supporters said.
The day was expected to be a test of wills, and authority, between police and the campaign, which has been publicized by Facebook, Twitter and other social media.FULL STORY
Three things you need to know today.
Where's 'Friday'?: This will be your first Friday in, well it seems like forever, that you can't kick off with a Rebecca Black "Friday" video fix from YouTube.
Entertainment Weekly reports that the clip, which had more than 167 million views, has been pulled.
“This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Rebecca Black. Sorry about that” is what you'll read when you click on the link.
The website NME.com reports that the video was pulled in a dispute with Ark Music, which wrote the track's music.
Solar power plant: Friday is the official groundbreaking for what is billed as the world's largest solar energy facility.
The Blythe Solar Power Project is being constructed on 7,000 acres of public lands in the desert of Riverside County, California.
When it is completed, the solar power plant will produce electricity to power 300,000 single-family homes for a year, its backers say. Using the plant's solar-generated electricity rather than fossil fuels will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2 million tons a year.
During construction, the plant is expected to create 1,066 construction jobs and almost 300 permanent jobs.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joins other state and local officials for Friday's groundbreaking.
Saudi driving: Saudi women are being encouraged to challenge the status quo and get behind the wheel Friday.
Though there are no traffic laws that make it illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, religious edicts are often interpreted as a ban against female drivers.
The day is expected to be a test of wills - and authority - between police and the campaign, which has been publicized by Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
For years in Saudi Arabia, women were not legally allowed to work in lingerie shops. This caused uncomfortable, and even hostile, moments between female customers and clerks.
But shopping for bras and other underwear may soon not be as stressful an experience for Saudi women. King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud has ordered government officials to start allowing women-only sales assistants in lingerie shops by the end of June. The move is part of a larger effort to fight unemployment in the kingdom, estimated to be around 11%, Time reports. The gesture is also part of an overall attempt to give women more jobs in the kingdom.
Listen to PRI's "The World" speak with a Saudi investment analyst about how it felt to have to buy intimate apparel from men.
To alleviate U.S. pressure on the Egyptian army, Saudi Arabia would consider matching the estimated $1.5 billion the United States provides Egypt in military aid each year if Washington decides to cut its aid to the troubled North African nation, an Arab diplomat says.FULL STORY
Militants fanned out across Beirut and reportedly staged coup drills as political unrest continued to percolate in the country, Lebanese and Israeli media outlets reported.
Operatives from Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite groups, gathered in groups of up to 30 at a dozen strategic points in the Lebanese capital Tuesday, The Jerusalem Post said. Included were sea ports, the airport and entries to the city, the newspaper reported.
Though Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, a member of Hezbollah’s political bureau, told The Post he wasn’t aware of any such drills, parents pulled their children from school after seeing people dressed in black and carrying hand-held radios.
A mother of three picking up her children in the Hamra area of the capital said the school contacted her “because the security situation is not good,” The Daily Star in Beirut reported.
One gathering was about 400 yards from the Grand Serall, downtown Beirut’s government seat, forcing security officials to close the roads to the building, The Post said. The men were unarmed and no trouble was reported, according to various media.
Sources told The Daily Star that the men appeared well-organized and were seen in west Beirut, downtown and in the southern suburb of Hadath.
The drill came as Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sat down for talks with Lebanese politicians, including Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, aimed at heading off sectarian strife in the country, The Daily Star reported.
Tunisia's acting president on Saturday called for "a new phase" in his embattled land, envisioning "a better political life which will include democracy, plurality and active participation for all the children of Tunis."
Fouad Mebazaa was sworn in as the country's acting leader Saturday after Tunisia's longtime authoritarian president and his family took refuge in Saudi Arabia, a flight sparked by days of angry street protests against the government.
Speaking on national TV, Mebazaa, who had been the country's parliamentary speaker, promised to ensure the nation's "stability," respect its constitution and "pursue the best interest of the nation."FULL STORY
Although it may seem as though WikiLeaks has flooded the Web with a mind-boggling number of classified diplomatic cables, the site says it has actually published only a fraction of 1 percent of the trove of secret State Department information it has.
WikiLeaks claims to have an archive of 251,287 cables. It has published fewer than 1,000.
One of his attorneys, Jennifer Robinson, said that the remaining contents of the State Department trove will continue to be published "unabated as scheduled, in a very orderly fashion" in the coming months. The documents could even be released in parts throughout 2011 in conjunction with media that had advance access to WikiLeaks' documents about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as the cables, said Robinson.