Accessibility links

Former President Bill Clinton Urges Saudi Reform - 2004-01-19

Former President Bill Clinton, speaking in Saudi Arabia, urged the kingdom to embrace reform and broaden political participation throughout the country.

Saying that Saudi Arabia could not fight the tide of change, former President Bill Clinton urged the kingdom to push for greater reforms, including allowing women to drive vehicles.

Mr. Clinton, speaking to a conference in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, discussed what he called a tug of war between an old order and a new world in Saudi Arabia.

He called for education that includes science, technology and political science.

Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, nor are they allowed to be seen in public with men other than their husbands or family members.

And although women make up more than half of the graduates from Saudi universities, only a small percentage actually enter the work force.

Mr. Clinton said Saudi Arabia must broaden political participation in the kingdom without compromising the Islamic faith and culture.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah has promised some reforms, including municipal elections later this year, although it is unclear whether women will be allowed to vote.

The kingdom is also in the midst of a massive crackdown against Islamic extremists including members of Osama bin Laden's terror network al-Qaida.

Hundreds of suspected terrorists have been arrested following last year's attacks on foreign housing compounds in the capital Riyadh that killed more than 50 people and injured hundreds of others.