Saudi king issues decree allowing women to drive: state media

RIYADH, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Saudi King Salman on Tuesday ordered that women be allowed to drive cars, state media said, ending the conservative Islamic kingdom's status as the only country where that is forbidden.

The royal decree ordered the formation of a ministerial body to give advice within 30 days and then implement the order by June 2018, according to state news agency SPA.

It stipulated that the move must "apply and adhere to the necessary Sharia standards," without providing details, and said a majority of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars had approved its permissibility.

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Women walk on Tahlia street in the Saudi capital Riyadh on September 24, 2017, during celebrations for the anniversary of the founding of the kingdom. / AFP PHOTO / Fayez Nureldine (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)
Women browse food products in a grocery store in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017. After relying on oil to fuel its economy for more than half a century, Saudi Arabia is turning to its other abundant natural resource to take it beyond the oil age -- desert. Photographer: Tasneem Alsultan/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A woman carrying a Louis Vuitton handbag, manufactured by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, walks with an elderly lady through the Al Yasmin mall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017. After relying on oil to fuel its economy for more than half a century, Saudi Arabia is turning to its other abundant natural resource to take it beyond the oil age -- desert. Photographer: Tasneem Alsultan/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA - JUNE 03 : A woman recites from the holy Quran at the Grand Mosque (Masjid al Haram) during the Muslim's holy fasting month of Ramadan in Mecca, Suadi Arabia on June 03, 2017. (Photo by Faisal Khan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Saudi woman works inside the first all-female call centre in the kingdom's security sector, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Saudi woman works inside the first all-female call centre in the kingdomÕs security sector, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Umm Ibrahim sits behind the wheel of her vehicle as she drives in Riyadh, an act that is banned in Saudi Arabia June 21, 2011. To match feature SAUDI-WOMEN/DRIVING REUTERS/Amena Bakr

Women attend the Jeddah International Book Fair on December 17, 2016 in the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jeddah. / AFP / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Male and Female shoppers wearing traditional Saudi Arabian dress browse bottles of scent on sale at a luxury concession stand inside the Kingdom Centre shopping mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Saudi Arabia is working to reduce the Middle Easts biggest economys reliance on oil, which provides three-quarters of government revenue, as part of a plan for the biggest economic shakeup since the countrys founding. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Saudi women watch a horse race at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in the capital Riyadh on November 11, 2016. The modern facility surrounded by greenery on the edge of Riyadh offers respite from the highways and urban sprawl of a city carved out of the desert. Horse racing is one of the few diversions in Saudi Arabia, where alcohol, public cinemas and theatres are banned. / AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY IAN TIMBERLAKE A picture taken on November 26, 2015 shows Nassima al-Sadah, a candidate for municipal councils in the Gulf coast city of Qatif, working at her office in Qatif 400 kilometers east of the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Women in Saudi Arabia begin their first-ever electoral campaign on November 29, a step forward for both womens rights and the kingdoms slow democratic process. AFP PHOTO / STR / AFP / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY ASAAD ABBOUD In a picture taken November 19, 2012, Saudi women walk with their shopping bags and drinks outside the Olaya mall in Riyadh. Women in Saudi Arabia, who are veiled in public and banned from driving, face further restrictions with a new law allowing airport security to report their movements to their male 'guardians', a move that is deemed by rights activists a form of 'slavery' as any Saudi woman intending to travel must carry a 'yellow slip' as a proof of consent granted to her. AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)
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Saudi Arabia has been widely criticized for being the only country in the world that bans women from driving, despite ambitious government targets to increase their public role, especially in the workforce.

Women in the kingdom are also bound by law to wear long robes and a headscarf and require the consent of a male guardian for most legal actions.

The kingdom has been opening more areas for women through the government's modernizing reforms, which have sparked tensions with influential clerics upon whose support the ruling family relies.

(Reporting By Stephen Kalin; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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