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Saudi's king approves rights panel



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(CNN) -- Saudi's King Fahd Ben Abdel Aziz has approved the establishment of a non-governmental national human rights advisory panel, the official Saudi Press Agency reports.

In a related development, the Saudis also are working on removing all anti-Christian and anti-Jewish materials from their schoolbooks, a source told CNN Wednesday.

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The apparent thaw comes after the kingdom's human rights record has been widely criticized and as the Iraqi Governing Council approved an interim constitution with Western democratic ideals as its cornerstone.

Analysts in the Arab world say the creation of the official non-governmental organization is to show the kingdom cares about human rights and is meant to impress decision-makers in the West and elsewhere.

"Because Islamic law is based on the protection of human rights, the formation of a national committee is appropriate," the press agency quoted Fahd as saying.

The 41-person government-appointed group -- called the National Human Rights Association -- will hear complaints on human rights matters and pass along recommendations to the government.

The press agency reported the panel, based in Riyadh, will work to prevent "torture, violence and intolerance."

Analysts also say that it will take time for the panel to develop trust among the populace because the body is government appointed.

Crown Prince Abdullah Tuesday met with some of the group's members, which includes a number of women.

CNN's Caroline Faraj in Dubai contributed to this report.


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