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German leader says no to headscarf

Feb. 2, 2007 at 1:50 PM

BERLIN, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel opens a tour of four Arab countries on Saturday but she's reportedly not packing a headscarf.

Saudi law says that Saudi and foreign women may only appear in public wearing a headscarf and a long black garment. But, Germany's most powerful woman, who is following the lead of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, plans to appear in Riyadh with her hair uncovered -- and wearing a pants suit.

"The times have changed, foreign guests are not obliged to wear the headscarf any more," a Saudi journalist told Deutsche Welle.

But, most still do, among them Camilla, the wife of Prince Charles, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

While Saudi King Abdullah is a strict Muslim, his religion has not prevented him from shaking hands with female politicians from foreign countries, reportedly considered a radical gesture.

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