Saudi builds northern border fence against infiltrators

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud speaks before a meeting with the US Secretary of State at his private residence on June 27, 2014 in the Red Sea city of Jeddah (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski) (POOL/AFP/File)

Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) - Saudi Arabia has inaugurated a multilayered fence along its northern borders, as part of efforts to secure the kingdom's vast desert frontiers against infiltrators and smugglers, state media said.

King Abdullah announced late Friday the launch of the first stage of a border security programme, covering 900 kilometres (560 miles) of the northern frontier, SPA state news agency reported.

SPA did not name Iraq, Saudi Arabia's neighbour to the north, referring only to the northern frontier, but the two countries' common border stretches over 800 kilometres (500 miles).

The project includes five layers of fencing which will cut the "number of infiltrators, drug, arms and cattle smugglers to zero," SPA said.

It said surveillance would be reinforced by watch towers, night-vision cameras and 50 radars.

Control complexes have been built in areas stretching from Hafr al-Batin in the northeast to Turaif near the Jordanian border, SPA said.

Relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia have been deeply strained.

Riyadh has accused outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of creating the conditions for the jihadist insurgency in his country by marginalising its Sunni Arab minority.

Maliki in turn has accused the oil-rich kingdom of supporting "terrorism" in Shiite-majority Iraq.

In July 2009, Riyadh signed a deal with European aerospace and defence contractors EADS to build a high-tech security fence on 9,000 kilometres (5,600 miles) of the country's borders.

The original aim was to secure the Saudi border with Iraq with fencing and high-tech monitoring.

But with increased worries over infiltration by anti-government militants and Al-Qaeda, the Saudi interior ministry expanded the scope of the programme to fence and electronically monitor all the country's borders.