Saudi Arabia has denied allegations that Syrians will not be able to perform the annual Muslim pilgrimage of Hajj this year because of a conflict with Damascus.
The Saudi Hajj Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that preparations to receive Syrian pilgrims are being processed and are highly considered because of the "difficult circumstances" Syrians currently face.
The statement follows a report on Monday by Syria's state-run news agency that Syrians would not be able to perform the Hajj because Saudi authorities had failed to agree on details in time.
Countries normally agree on numbers of worshippers to make the pilgrimage ahead of time.
A leading Islamic organization signalled on Wednesday that it will revive long-standing attempts to make insults against religions an international criminal offence.
The bid follows uproar across the Muslim world over a crude Internet video clip filmed in the United States and cartoons in a French satirical magazine that lampoon the Prophet Mohammad.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the international community should “come out of hiding from behind the excuse of freedom of expression”, a reference to Western arguments against a universal blasphemy law that the OIC has sought for over a decade.
He said the “deliberate, motivated and systematic abuse of this freedom” were a danger to global security and stability.
Iran's oil minister said on Wednesday that crude exports were rebounding after being hit by a European embargo in July, describing for parliament the strategies by which the Islamic Republic says it is countering punitive measures imposed by the West over Tehran's nuclear program.
Rostam Qassemi did not provide figures. But some analysts say that exports have fallen in July by as much as 40 percent, hitting a sector that counts for four-fifths of the country's foreign revenue.
His comments carried by the semiofficial Mehr news agency appear part of wider efforts by Iranian officials to show that the country can ride out the sanctions.
"We have no problem selling our oil," Qassemi said. "Iran's crude oil exports are increasing. With the increase in exports, the way has been paved for more currency income."
Turkey is talking to Libya, Saudi Arabia and Russia about buying more of their oil to make up for a shortfall in crude imports from Iran due to a Western embargo, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told Reuters on Wednesday.
Yildiz said Turkey had started buying oil from Saudi Arabia on the spot market in addition to purchases from Libya, and that its sole refiner Tupras hoped to reach an agreement with Riyadh on long-term import contracts later this year.
"One of our core strategies is to increase the number of supplier countries and alternative routes. We buy oil from 11 countries and natural gas from five. We aim to increase that to 13, or 15 if possible," Yildiz said.
Iraq reopened its main Al Qaim crossing with Syria to refugees on Tuesday, after closing it for several weeks, but continued to deny entry to single men under 50, an Iraqi official said.
Amr Al Khafaji, a spokesman for the displacement and migration ministry, which oversees the refugee camp at Al Qaim, told AFP that 150 people had crossed from Syria on Tuesday.
But unmarried male Syrians under the age of 50 remain barred from entering Iraq, Khafaji said, a policy apparently aimed at keeping out military-age men who may pose a security threat.
The crossing had been closed since August 15 for “security reasons,” Khafaji said.
The US State Department has updated its travel warning to Lebanon amid a number of anti-American protests in the Middle East, and suspended grants to Americans wishing to study in the country, AFP has reported.
The travel advisory highlighted a spate of recent kidnappings of foreigners in the country by different groups and clans, and the tensions caused by the conflict in Syria.
"US citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks," the advisory said.
"US citizens travelling or residing in Lebanon despite this travel warning should keep a low profile, assess their personal security, and vary times and routes for all required travel," it added.