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Arab world's richest man calls for parliamentary elections in Saudi Arabia

Al-Waleed bin Talal also said that ending a ban on women driving in the country was a matter of time.

Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal is worth an estimated $20 billion - making him the Arab world's richest man.
Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal is worth an estimated $20 billion - making him the Arab world's richest man.
Image: Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP

A SAUDI BILLIONAIRE – and the nephew of the country’s king – has called for parliamentary elections to be held in the country, where the king currently names members of a toothless Shura consultative council.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the richest Arab businessman and a nephew of King Abdullah, said in a television interview aired last night that his uncle’s decision last month, to appoint 30 women to the national consultative council, was “very important” but needed to go further.

“For this to become historic, I think two things are essential: first, elections, even if partial, and, more importantly, [giving] powers,” he said in the interview aired on several channels, most belonging to his own media empire.

The prince also said that ending a ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia was a matter of time, despite strong resistance from religious conservatives in the desert kingdom that is the birthplace of Islam.

“I think that driving [for women] is definitely coming,” he said, playing up the economic benefits of saving wages paid to foreign drivers.

Prince Alwaleed regretted the “negative” outcome of Arab Spring uprisings, saying the politics of new Islamist-dominated governments “do not reflect the aspirations of the people … for freedom and justice.”

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The uprisings which toppled strong Arab leaders would not reach the Gulf monarchies, where “the leaders look after the interests of their peoples,” said the prince.

- © AFP, 2013

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