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Published: Sunday January 17, 2010 MYT 2:21:00 PM
Updated: Sunday January 17, 2010 MYT 8:47:39 PM

PM Najib awarded in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who ended his four-day official visit to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, has been conferred the King Abdulaziz Order of Merit (1st Class) by King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

Najib, who was on his first official visit to Saudi Arabia as Prime Minister, received the honour at the Conference Palace in the Saudi capital on Saturday night.

Briefing the Malaysian media at the Royal Terminal of the King Khalid International Airport just prior to his departure to the United Arab Emirates for another official visit, Najib expressed his gratitude to King Abdullah for the special honour.

“I consider this a manifestation of the close relations enjoyed between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, and it symbolises a huge potential for us to cooperate in various fields, not only in the common interest of the two countries but also for the benefit of the larger Muslim community,” Najib told reporters before departing for Abu Dhabi to begin an official visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Last year US president Barack Obama had received the same award, the country’s highest civilian honour which was named after the kingdom’s first monarch, on his maiden visit there.

Najib also said the King told him the Malaysian haj pilgrims as the best among all haj pilgrims as he couldn’t recall any problem involving them.

He said His Majesty also talked about the Saudi-led interfaith dialogues in Madrid and New York,and the world inter-faith centre to be operational in Vienna.

“I explained to him that Malaysia is keen to participate in such a programme to forge a better understanding of Islam among those of other faiths and beliefs,” he said.

The two also discussed the developments in Afghanistan and terrorism, and the need for Malaysia and Saudi Arabia to strengthen their cooperation to eradicate all forms of terrorism.

“King Abdullah is interested to see a formal pact being signed between the two countries on this matter,” Najib said, adding that there would be a follow-up after this visit.

Najib also thanked the Saudi government for providing trade and economic opportunities to Malaysian firms, including the Jabal Omar and Jizan Economic City projects.

“We also appreciate the interest shown by Saudi Arabian parties to invest in Malaysia, such as PetroSaudi which has formed a joint venture with 1Malaysia Development Bhd,” he said.

Najib said Malaysian entities with large funds should consider the possibility of participating in the construction and project management work in Mecca.

On his visit to King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), he said the institution was “a bold and far-sighted concept” as it would spearhead Saudi Arabia’s transformation to be at the forefront of the changes in the 21st century.

“It represents a paradigm shift from other universities, as 85% of the graduate students are from overseas and most of its faculty members are foreigners, including its president who hails from Singapore,” he said.

Earlier in the day Najib attended a luncheon hosted by Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, among others.