Message Monitor

JEDDAH, August 7, 2010 (AFP) – BlackBerry has “virtually” sealed a deal with Saudi Arabia on its encrypted messenger services to avert a ban on the smartphone, a Saudi telecoms company official told AFP on Saturday. “A deal has been virtually reached and we are in the process of adding the final touches,” said the official of one of Saudi Arabia’s three licensed mobile operators, asking not to be named.

The official declined to go into details.

The Saudi-financed satellite television Al-Arabiya, citing unnamed Saudi sources, said BlackBerry’s Canadian makers have agreed in principle to grant access to Saudi authorities to decipher its messenger exchanges between users.

A special server for the messenger services is to be set up in the highly security-conscious Gulf state, birthplace of Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, according to Al-Arabiya.

Earlier on Saturday, an official of a mobile phone company reported progress in talks with BlackBerry’s manufacturers, Research In Motion (RIM), in a bid to have the device conform with Saudi laws.

“A solution is in sight with the Canadian company,” the official said.

Only last week RIM founder and co-chief executive Mike Lazarid