Gul attends in auguration of high-tech university in Jeddah
In Jeddah, President Abdullah Gul yesterday attended the inauguration ceremony of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia's first co-educational university, boasting a high-tech campus. The ceremony was held on a Saudi holiday, and was also attended by heads of regional countries, Western officials, and Nobel laureate scientists. Besides Gul, who was the guest of honor, also attending the ceremony were Jordan's King Abdullah, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, the heads of state of Bangladesh, Djibouti, Mauritania, Philippines, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan, and Britain's Prince Andrew, along with institution’s namesake, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud himself. With a 36-square-kilometer campus on the Red Sea coast, the university is a key part of Saudi Arabia's plans to transform itself into a global scientific hub, as well as diversify the oil-rich state's economic base. The new university is also seen as a critical step in the Saudi king's long-term reform plans for the country's education and justice system. Speaking to reporters, University President Choon Fong Shih, a mechanical engineer by training and former head of the National University of Singapore, said, "We recruit the very best in the world and give them the freedom to pursue their scientific interests." He added, "This university represents a pivotal point for the future of Saudi Arabia." Afterwards, Gul had a face-to-face meeting with the Saudi king and held talks with several high-level Saudi officials, and attended a dinner hosted by the king in honor of the guest statesmen. Gul also met with representatives of the Turkish-Saudi Arabian Council Western Region and a group of Turkish entrepreneurs doing business in the kingdom. During the meeting, council head Mehmet Ozturk told Gul about the group's goals and activities. He said the council wants to bring together Turkish citizens living in Saudi Arabia and support Turkish investors in the country as well as Saudi entrepreneurs seeking to invest in Turkey. Accompanied by his wife Hayrunnisa, and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinç and his wife Munevver, Gul spent the first night of his state visit to Saudi Arabia in Mecca visiting the Kaabah, which is regarded by Muslims as the "House of God" and is the destination of the annual hajj, or pilgrimage.