Page last updated at 15:01 GMT, Sunday, 12 April 2009 16:01 UK

Saudis ban 'lewd' number plates

Riyadh street scene
Some 90,000 plates with the banned letters will reportedly be replaced

Saudi Arabia has banned vehicle number plates which are seen as "offensive" in English when Arabic letters are given in the Latin alphabet, reports say.

Saudi newspaper al-Watan said the banned words included "sex" and "ass", but the list was topped by "USA".

Al-Watan said 90,000 existing plates were to be replaced.

Personalised plates are popular with wealthy young Saudis. One plate recently sold at auction for 6m riyals ($1.2m), the newspaper reported.

Newer Saudi plates include three Arabic letters that are also shown in the Latin alphabet.

The growing fashion is for car owners to buy personalised "vanity" plates that deliberately read "nut", "but", "bad", or "bar" in English.

The latter presumably has been deemed offensive as it relates to alcohol, which is banned in the Islamic kingdom, the AFP news agency reports.

The first on the list, for unexplained reasons, is the combination "USA".

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