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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 November, 2003, 16:31 GMT
Saudi TV to show council debates
Saudis buy and sell sheep in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is said to be planning a series of reforms
Saudi Arabia is to begin televised coverage of the weekly sessions of the kingdom's consultative council.

The council's chairman said the 30-minute programme, to be launched on Saturday, aimed to involve the public in the activities of the council.

Sessions have not previously been televised or open to the public.

Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, last month said it planned to hold its first municipal elections next year, as part of proposed political reform.

The sessions of the 120-member consultative council, or majlis al-shura, are usually held on Sundays. Sessions will be televised on the following Saturdays.

Reform calls

The announcement follows last month's police action to suppress a day of opposition protest rallies calling for economic and political reforms.

Saudi intellectuals - women as well as men - have been calling for far-reaching reforms.

Semi-official reports from Saudi Arabia have indicated that a three-year reform plan will start from grassroots level first.

A prominent human rights campaigner, Mohammed Said Tayeb, revealed the plans to the BBC last month, saying he had been told about them by Saudi Defence Minister Prince Sultan bin Abd al-Aziz.

Elections for 14 municipal councils are planned for next year.

The following year elections are proposed at the city level and in the third year there would be nationwide elections for 30% of the members of the consultative council.

The BBC's Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says Saudi Arabia is facing unprecedented pressure for change from a population more vocal than ever in its criticism of unemployment, corruption and the absence of free speech.

Anger on Saudi Arabia's streets
01 Nov 03  |  From Our Own Correspondent
Saudis clamp down on protests
24 Oct 03  |  Middle East
Saudi elections 'in three years'
17 Oct 03  |  Middle East
Mass arrests follow Saudi rally
15 Oct 03  |  Middle East

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