Middle East Updates Saudi King Warns of Terrorist Threat to Europe, U.S

Iran nuclear talks to resume on sidelines of UN General Assembly; six killed in Taliban attack on Afghan intel agency.

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Iranian President Rohani delivers a speech during an annual rally commemorating anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, February 11, Tehran, Iran.
Iranian President Rohani delivers a speech during an annual rally commemorating anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, February 11, Tehran, Iran.Credit: AP

Haaretz's latest analyses on the Middle East:Israel's new enemies across the Syrian border (Amos Harel) | Gaza war? Merely a blip on the Mideast radar (Zvi Bar'el) | Riddle of the Sphinx: How does Egypt do it? (Ilene Prusher) | World powers see Assad as bulwark against Islamic State (Zvi Barel)


See Friday's Middle East Updates

6:25 P.M. The king of Saudi Arabia has warned that terrorist groups will attack Europe and the United States unless they are faced with collective "power and speed" from the international community.

King Abdullah's comments come as the Islamic State group has seized wide swaths of land across Syria and Iraq.

While not mentioning any terrorist groups by name, Abdullah said that he is "certain that after a month they will reach Europe and, after another month, America."

The king's comments late Friday appeared aimed at drawing Washington and NATO forces into a wider fight against extremists in the region. Saudi Arabia has backed rebels fighting in Syria, but is concerned that extremists there could turn their weapons on the kingdom.

State media carried the king's comments to foreign ambassadors early Saturday. (AP)

6:20 P.M. The six global powers will discuss ways to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, the European Union's foreign policy chief said on Saturday.

Talks aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for ending sanctions began in February. But Iran and the six powers involved failed to meet an initial self-imposed July 20 deadline to negotiate a deal.

The six, comprising Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States and known as the P5+1, have agreed to extend negotiations until November 24.

Catherine Ashton, the EU's top diplomat, is expected to continue to lead nuclear negotiations with Iran even as she leaves her EU job at the end of October.

"There are ongoing discussions on that (Iran nuclear issue)," Ashton told a news conference when asked if nuclear talks would take place in New York around mid-September.

"We will use the opportunity of the General Assembly in New York to also do that," Ashton, speaking at the end of a two-day informal gathering of EU foreign ministers in Milan that discussed the situation in Ukraine, Iraq and the Middle East.

Ashton is due to meet Iran Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Brussels on Monday.

This year's UN General Assembly starts in New York on Sept. 16. The Iran nuclear discussions are expected to begin among senior foreign ministry officials the same week and may continue at ministerial level at the annual assembly gathering of world leaders, which begins on September 24.

In a signal there should be no evasion of the sanctions while nuclear talks continue, the United States on Friday penalized a number of Iranian and other foreign companies, banks and airlines for violating sanctions against Tehran.

Iran said on Saturday that new U.S. sanctions placed on some Iranian and foreign banks and businesses would have negative consequences on its nuclear negotiations with world powers. (Reuters)

2:20 P.M. Egypt's state news agency is reporting that a Cairo court has sentenced Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohammed Badie and seven others to life in prison on charges of planning riots, murder and sabotage.

The case stems from violence that took place last summer after the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, when fighting killed 10 people and injured 20.

MENA said the court Saturday also sentenced six Islamists to death in absentia. Under Egyptian law, those sentenced in absentia will face a retrial once in custody.

Badie has been sentenced to death in another case but can appeal.

Since Morsi's ouster, the government's crackdown on his group and supporters has killed hundreds of people and left tens of thousands detained or facing trials. (AP)

1:30 P.M. Arab media reports: UN peacekeepers have escaped Syria and entered Israel. It was not immediately clear of which nationality the said peacekeepers are. (Jack Khoury)

11:30 A.M. The Philippine defense chief says Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights have been attacked by Syrian rebels who are holding dozens of Fijian troops hostage.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters Saturday in a series of text messages that Filipino troops manning one UN encampment have been "extricated," while soldiers in another encampment were "now under attack."

He said the attack started early Saturday Syrian time.

Gazmin did not say whether there were any casualties. Asked how the troops were doing, he said they had "high morale."

The Syrian rebels have seized 44 Fijian peacekeepers and demanded that the 75 Filipinos manning two separate UN encampments surrender their weapons, but they have refused. Click here for the full article. (AP)

11:10 A.M. Iran's President Hassan Rohani called Western sanctions an "invasion" on Saturday after Washington imposed penalties on 25 businesses, banks and individuals.

"Sanctions are an invasion of the Iranian nation. We should resist the invasion and put the invaders in their place," Rohani told officials in remarks broadcast by state TV. "We should not allow the continuation and repetition of the invasion."

On Friday the United States imposed existing sanctions on more than 25 businesses, banks and individuals suspected of working to expand Iran's nuclear program, support terrorism and help Iran evade U.S. and international sanctions.

The move bars Americans from engaging in transactions with any of the designated parties, freezes their assets and blocks their property under U.S. jurisdiction.

Iran's state TV said the move violated an interim agreement reached with world powers under which Western nations agreed to ease sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear activities. However, Friday's action did not constitute an expansion of the sanctions regime, but rather the enforcement of existing sanctions. (AP)

10:00 A.M. Australia's foreign minister criticized the 44 Fijian peacekeepers' detention and called for their unconditional release.

The UN said it was engaged in talks to secure the release of the peacekeepers from Fiji, whose camp on the Golan Heights was overran by about 150 armed rebels on Thursday.

"Australia condemns the detention ... of 44 Fiji peacekeepers in the Golan Heights by armed groups," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement. "As a member of the UN Security Council, Australia demands the unconditional and immediate release of all the detained United Nations peacekeepers."

Bishop said she had telephoned Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola to express Australia's strong support, including Australia's intelligence resources, for Fiji at this difficult time. Click here for the full article. (AP)

4:55 A.M. At least six people were killed and dozens wounded when a suicide car bomber and Taliban gunmen attacked an office of the Afghan intelligence agency in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Saturday, officials said.

Heavy fighting was continuing between the Taliban and Afghan security forces hours after the attack on the Jalalabad headquarters of the National Directorate of Security began, said Ahmad Zeya Abdulzai, a spokesman for the governor of eastern Nangarhar province near the border with Pakistan.

Nangahar's public health director, Najib Kamawal, said: "So far six bodies and 45 wounded have been transferred to the local hospital."

"Most of the victims are civilians," Kamawal said.

Abdulzai said the toll was likely to rise.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, part of a broader pattern of bold offensives by militants across Afghanistan that has emerged in recent weeks during the summer "fighting season."

The violence coincides with a political deadlock in the capital, Kabul, where rival presidential candidates have been unable to resolve months-long disputes over an election meant to mark the first democratic transfer of power in Afghan history.

2:14 A.M. The United Nations on Friday said it had been informed that the Islamist militants who seized 44 Fijian peacekeepers in the Golan Heights did so "for their own protection" and that all the detained blue-helmeted soldiers are safe.

UN officials had been trying to establish the whereabouts of the peacekeepers, who were seized by Al-Qaida-linked rebels this week inside Syrian territory along the rocky frontier between Syria and the Golan Heights.

"The United Nations has received assurances from credible sources that the 44 peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) who were taken from their position on the morning of Thursday, 28 August, are safe and in good health," the UN press office said in a statement.

The statement added that 72 peacekeepers from the Philippines surrounded by militants and unable to leave their positions have also not been harmed and are in good health. Click here for the full article. (Reuters)

Filipino UN peacekeepers cross the Quneitra checkpoint between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights, March 9, 2013.Credit: AFP
Afghan policemen keep watch as smoke billow in the background after an attack by Taliban militants on the Afghan intelligence service office in Jalalabad on August 30,2014.Credit: AFP
A member of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) carries binoculars at an observation post in the Golan Heights that overlooks the Syrian side of the Qunietra crossing August 28, 2014. Credit: Reuters

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