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Saudi King Promises Reform, Offers Residents Cash

Saudi King Abdullah addresses the nation from his office at the Royal Palace in Riyadh, March 18, 2011

Saudi Arabia's king, seeking to keep unrest sweeping the Arab world at bay, promised reforms on Friday and cash incentives to residents.

In a nationally televised speech after midday Muslim prayers, King Abdullah praised his security forces for helping keep the country's stable during recent demonstrations in the kingdom.

When he finished his short speech, news anchors then read a series of royal decrees. They included promises of wage increases, and cash gifts. The government also vowed an anti-corruption drive.

Earlier this month, the Saudi government banned protests, although several small demonstrations have taken place since the ban.

Also, King Abdullah has previously offered incentives to help quell the unrest. In February, he ordered a 15 percent pay raise for state workers and increased spending on a range of social programs.

The monarch, 86 returned to Saudi Arabia in February after spending three months abroad for medical treatment.

In November, he underwent surgery in New York for a herniated disc that was complicated by a blood clot. He had a second procedure in New York in December.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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