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Saudi Arabia falls short of billing

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Saudi Arabia falls short of billing


Conservative Saudi Arabia, the host of the Third OPEC Summit, took the unusual step of putting itself under the spotlight of media from around the world because it wants to clear up misunderstandings about the way it is perceived, said an advisor to oil minister Ali Al-Naimi.

"People sometimes think we are not open," Ibrahim Muhanna told reporters. "We are open. This time, instead of waiting for media people to come to us, we went to them," he said.

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National Post columnist Claudia Cattaneo.
CanWest News Service

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Font:****The Saudis recruited the global public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, to invite reporters and are holding Western-style press conferences -- though dressed in their flowing white robes -- to get their message across, both in Arabic and English. Hundreds came to cover the event.

"There is a misunderstanding about the oil industry as a whole," Mr. Al-Muhanna said. "There is a misunderstanding about Saudi Arabia, of Muslim Arabs."

Still, reporters, who were promised unprecedented access, are complaining the effort is falling short of the billing.
Photography of oil facilities remains barred, while organizers said they will do their best to accommodate, but not guaranteeing, interviews with key OPEC officials.


Amid hundreds of media representatives covering the Third OPEC Summit, Susan Baaghil stands out.
The petite Saudi Arabian woman dressed in the traditional black Abaya is a nimble photojournalist freelancing for Reuters. She's also the country's first professional photographer.

A multiple international award winner, Ms. Baaghil said her attire doesn't keep her from doing her job.
"Just because I cover my hair, it doesn't mean I cover my brain," she said. "I move freely, even if (the abaya) is long."

Ms. Baaghil said she tries with her photography to convey a message of peace to counter the Arab image around the world.

"Photography is an international language," she said. "I want to show a different reality of my country and my religion."

Ms. Baaghil is such a Saudi icon -- she has won 21 international photography awards, has been featured in Belgian TV as a trailblazer for women in Saudi Arabia, and was a member of the entourage of Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud's during his visit with Pope Benedict in Rome last week.

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