Prince Charles adds Saudi Arabia to Mideast tour

LONDON - Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla have added Saudi Arabia to their tour of the Middle East next month, palace officials said on Thursday.

"The visit will be part of their Royal Highnesses' nine-day tour between 11th-19th March, which will also include Jordan, Qatar and Oman," Charles' Clarence House residence said.

The heir to the British throne will meet with the royal families of each country on the tour, which he is conducting at his government's request in a bid to boost Britain's political and economic ties in the region.

The palace said Britain's relationship with Saudi Arabia, a key trade and defence partner, was underpinned by a "close personal friendship" between the royal families of the two countries.

The royal couple's engagements in the ultra-conservative kingdom will include meeting with the first women appointed to the Shura Council, Saudi Arabia's top advisory body.

In Jordan, the first stop on the tour, Charles will meet with King Abdullah II and Queen Rania and attend an inter-faith gathering and a business conference.

In Qatar, the prince, who is a keen environmentalist, will "see first hand how the country is tackling its food security challenges", while the couple's engagements in Oman will cover "military personnel, health and education issues".

The palace said that in each country, Camilla would also undertake "solo engagements focusing on the growing opportunities for women in society". This will be the first official visit to Jordan and Oman for Camilla, who

visited Saudi Arabia with Charles in 2006 and Qatar in 2007.

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