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Saudi Arabia to put women in the driving seat at last

By Staff Reporter

Saudi Arabia is to allow women to drive for the first time.

The ultra-conservative kingdom was the only country to bar women from driving and for years had garnered negative publicity for detaining women who defied the ban.

Women's rights activists since the 1990s have been pushing for the right to drive, saying it represents their larger struggle for equal rights under the law.

The State-run Saudi Press Agency and State TV reported the news late yesterday evening, saying a royal order was issued for both men and women to be issued driving licences.

A committee will look into how to implement the new order.

The United States welcomed Saudi Arabia's news, with State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert saying the US was "happy" with the move.

Ms Nauert called it "a great step in the right direction for that country" but would not comment on whether Saudi still needed to do more to ensure full rights for its women citizens.

The move comes as Saudi Arabia works to improve its image and the perception of its human rights record in the United States and the West.

It represents a significant opening for women in Saudi Arabia, whose rights have slowly gained ground over the years.

Saudi women remain largely under the control of male relatives due to guardianship laws.

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