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He also acknowledged the yearning for greater social freedoms in the kingdom.

“Balanced modernization, which falls within our Islamic values, is an important demand in an era where there is no place for defeatist or hesitant people,” he said.

In January, a group of female activists launched a campaign on social networking websites to push the kingdom to allow women to vote and run in the municipal elections.

Maamoun Youssef reported from Cairo.