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Saudi king says women will have political role

Sep 25, 2011, 4:55 a.m.
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud attends prayers on the first day of Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, at Al-Safa Palace in Mecca August 30, 2011. REUTERS/Saudi Press Agency/Handout

JEDDAH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said on Sunday women in the conservative Islamic kingdom will have the right to join the advisory Shura Council as full members and participate in future municipal elections, meeting a key goal of liberal activists.

"Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior ulama (clerics) and others... to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from the next term," he said in a speech delivered to the Shura Council.

"Women will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote," he added.

Activists in the country have long called for greater rights for women, who are barred from traveling, working or having medical operations without the permission of a male relative and are forbidden from driving.

Those changes will come after municipal elections this Thursday, for which women have been barred from voting or standing office.

(Reporting By Asma Alsharif; Writing by Angus McDowall)

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