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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006, 13:03 GMT
Saudis allow women to watch match
Saudi women
Women's rights are limited in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow women to attend a football match against Sweden, reversing an earlier decision.

On Monday, Saudi authorities had told the Swedish Football Association that a change of stadium meant women could not watch the match in the capital, Riyadh.

But after intervention by Swedish diplomats on Tuesday, the Saudi authorities backed down.

The ban on women spectators had caused upset in Sweden, one of the world's leading nations on gender equality.

The issue arose when the match venue was shifted to a smaller stadium, the Swedish FA's head of communications, Jonas Nystedt, told the BBC.

Sweden's deputy head of mission in Riyadh, Christer Nilsson, met officials at the Saudi Ministry of Information to resolve the problem.

Swedish and Saudi women will now be allowed to attend the match on Wednesday, Mr Nystedt said.

The reason for the change of stadium was not known.

Speak out

Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds told parliament on Tuesday that it was important for Sweden to speak out clearly on discrimination against women and that this was a "good occasion", the AFP news agency reported.

A May 2005 assessment by international NGO the World Economic Forum placed Sweden highest in the world on gender equality. In parliament, 45% of MPs are women.

Women in Saudi Arabia must be covered from head to toe and stay separate from men. They have traditionally played a very limited role in public life.


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