King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud
US: Saudi has 'long way to go' on religious tolerance
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The White House said Wednesday that Saudi King Abdullah knows that his country has "a long way to go" on religious tolerance and is trying to make progress on the issue.
One day before US President George W. Bush heads to a Saudi-sponsored UN conference on religious tolerance, spokeswoman Dana Perino was asked about Riyadh's ban on public practice of religions other than Islam.
"He welcomes the opportunity to have this event, and he believes that the king of Saudi Arabia has recognized that they have a long way to go and that he is trying to take some steps to get there," Perino told reporters.
The meeting, which aims to promote dialogue among the world's monotheistic religions, will be a follow-up to a similar conference in Madrid in July at King Abdullah's initiative.
Bush, who will address the meeting, sees it as "an opportunity for him to reaffirm his commitment to religious freedom and tolerance and the importance of people of all faiths coming together," said Perino.
Saud Arabia hosts Islam's holiest shrines and does not permit the public practice of religions other than Islam.
"This dialogue is a good way to bring people of all religions together. And you'll hear more from the president tomorrow," said Perino.