Saudis clear women to compete in London

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Saudis clear women to compete in London

A month before the London Games, Saudi Arabia appears to be moving closer to sending female athletes to the Olympics for the first time amid mounting pressure on the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom to grant women more rights.

Deliberations by Saudi officials on sending women to the Games have been wrapped in secrecy for fear of a backlash from the powerful religious establishment within a deeply traditional society, in which women are severely restricted in public life and are not even allowed to drive.

Saudi Arabia is one of three countries that have never included women in their Olympic teams, along with Qatar and Brunei.

The International Olympic Committee said talks have been ongoing with Saudi Arabia to ensure participation, and a statement by the country’s embassy in London said qualifying female athletes could be allowed to participate.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is looking forward to its complete participation in the London 2012 Olympic Games through the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, which will oversee the participation of women athletes who can qualify for the games,” said the statement.

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