Saudi Arabia modernizing but no to interference, ambassador

'50 years ago only men were allowed in schools'

17 March, 18:00

    Saudi ambassador to Rome Rayed Khalid A. Krimly Saudi ambassador to Rome Rayed Khalid A. Krimly

    (by Cristiana Missori)

    (ANSAmed) - ROME - Saudi ambassador to Rome Rayed Khalid A. Krimly told ANSAmed on Tuesday that his nation was ''doing its best to evolve and modernize''.
    He underscored, however, that it was doing so ''in line with the aspirations and demands of its population'' and without external interference, since ''no one can interfere with our legal system''.
    Krimly discussed human rights in his country and the friction with Sweden that led Stockholm to give up its military cooperation agreement with Riyadh. Sweden's foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, said that the country did not respect human rights and pointed to the case of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi as an example. The Saudi ambassador to Sweden was then recalled after the military agreement was not renewed. ''We do not interfere with the internal affairs of others,'' the diplomat said repeatedly. ''We are an Islamic country, our legal system is based on the Sharia and we are an independent nation that has never been colonized,'' he said, adding that change in Saudi Arabia was ''gradual and cannot be dictated from abroad.'' Saudi society, he said, ''is the only one that can decide the extent of the transformation and modernization.'' ''We are doing our best,'' he added. Fifty years ago, he noted, ''women were not allowed in schools. A half a century later there are more women than men in our schools.'' However, women are not allowed to drive or attend physical education classes in public schools. Saudi Arabia ''chose to open education and the labor market up to women when the decision was very unpopular in society.
    Today women hold seats in the Consultative Council of the Shura'' (parliament, Ed.) and can vote in local elections. No country is perfect, he said. Like it or not, Riyadh has its own ''culture, history and beliefs. It will never be able to resemble or become a copy of a Western nation.'' The ambassador denied that the country was using oil prices for political gains. ''Oil prices,'' he said, ''are not mysterious. It is simply an issue of protecting market share.
    Many inventive reconstructions are heard that claim there is a desire to punish Russia or the United States. Punishing others would punish our own economy.'' For now Saudi Arabia is continuing to focus on oil but will soon also have nuclear power, as shown by a recent visit to Riyadh by the South Korean president that led to the signing of an agreement for two reactors within the next twenty years.
    ''Every country, including Iran,'' Krimly said, ''has the right to develop its own nuclear program. It must be a program for civilian use, however.'' For the moment, the international community is not sure of this. ''Tehran must have a leadership role, but it must be a positive role for the development and security of the entire area and certainly not for the development of sectarian militias and civil wars, or to interfere in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon an Syria.'' Worrying Riyadh - and the world - is the advance of the so-called Islamic State. ''No one can create a rift between Muslims, neither Muslims or the West,'' he said. ''Extremists must be stopped.'' When asked whether one measure could be the formation of a joint Arab force, as called for by Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, he said that ''we will speak about it in the next meetings of Arab nations. If it will be for defensive purposes and to protect the security and stability of Arab nations, then we will support Egypt.'' (ANSAmed).

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