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Saudi king swears in first women members of advisory council

20 February, 2013

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on Tuesday swore in the country's first female members of the Shura Council, an appointed body that advises on new laws, in a move that has riled conservative clerics in the Islamic monarchy.

Abdullah, who has not been seen on television since shortly after a back operation in November, was shown on state media sitting in a palace chamber to give a short speech as he swore in the new council members. King Abdullah is seen as having pushed to cautiously advance the role of women in Saudi society.

The health of the king, who turns 90 this year, is closely watched in the world's top oil exporter because he has the final say on policy.

Major speeches in recent months have been made on Abdullah's behalf by his heir, Crown Prince Salman. State media have also listed Salman as chairing the weekly cabinet sessions in place of the king.

"Your place in the Shura Council is not as those who have been honoured, but as those who have been charged with a duty, as you represent part of society," he said, addressing the new women members.

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