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Obama meets Saudi woman activist after reassuring king on ties

Published on Mar 29, 2014 7:06 PM
US President Barack Obama (left) presents the executive director of Saudi Arabia's National Family Safety Program Maha Al Muneef with the US Secretary of State's International Woman of Courage Award in Riyadh, on March 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

RIYADH (AFP) - US President Barack Obama met a Saudi women's rights activist on Saturday, the same day women have pledged to defy a driving ban, as he wrapped up a reassurance visit to the longtime ally.

In talks with King Abdullah late on Friday, Obama told his host their two countries remained in lockstep on their strategic interests despite policy differences over Iran and Syria.

But despite appeals from US lawmakers, Obama did not raise the issue of human rights, a senior US official said, instead scheduling Saturday morning's meeting with Maha Al-Muneef, a prominent campaigner against domestic violence in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom.

Muneef was one of 10 women honoured by the US State Department this year for bravery, and Obama took the opportunity to hand her the accolade in person after she was unable to attend an awards ceremony in Washington earlier this month.

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