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Saudi princess says ready to drive if permitted

Amira says she drives abroad and is ready to drive at home

A Saudi princess, wife of one of Saudi Arabia's most high profile and richest men, said in a wide-ranging interview published in a Saudi daily Monday that she was ready to drive if given the right and broke with tradition by allowing her picture to be published with her face uncovered.

Princess Amira al-Taweel, wife of billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, who is ranked as one of the world's 20 richest persons by Forbes magazine, told al-Watan daily that she already drives when she travels abroad.

"I have an international driver's license, and I drive cars in all the countries I travel to," she was quoted as saying after it was noted that her husband said in a previous interview he would be the first to let his wife and daughter drive if the ban was lifted.

"I prefer driving a car with my sister or friend next to me instead of being with a driver who is not related to me," al-Taweel said.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not permitted to drive. The issue has been debated by the Saudi mass media for years and last month an anonymous government official told a British newspaper the government had decided to lift its ban on women drivers and would issue a decree by the end of the year.

Women activists in the kingdom have taken to breaking the driving ban and risking arrest while men opposed to lifting the ban recently started displaying anti-driving bumper stickers on their cars.

In the interview she spoke about the positive effects her marriage has had on every aspect of her life, from her educational pursuits to her love of horseback riding, a hobby she shares with her husband.

"The most important of these (positive) aspects was my educational ambitions. After marriage, I changed my university studies from English literature to business administration," said Taweel, who is the assistant chair of the board of her husband's charity foundation.

"My husband is my whole world. He is a husband, a brother, a best friend and a teacher to me," she said, adding that the prince, nephew of Saudi King Abdallah, often consults her on issues regarding his business.

I have an international driver's license, and I drive cars in all the countries I travel to,

Princess Amira al-Taweel, wife of Saudi billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal