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Saudi King orders more state jobs

Riyadh, February 27, 2011

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has ordered that state employees on temporary labour contracts be given permanent jobs, in another apparent bid to insulate the kingdom from a wave of protests in the Arab world.

The top oil exporter has so far escaped major protests that have spread through the region, toppling entrenched leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and reaching neighbours Bahrain and Oman.

Abdullah returned home on Wednesday from three months of medical treatment abroad for back treatment and unveiled benefits for Saudis worth around $36 billion to address social pressures such as unemployment and housing.

On Sunday, the king, also ordered all Saudi nationals in temporary public sector jobs be given permanent employment, state news agency SPA said.

SPA gave no details but Banque Saudi Fransi Chief Economist John Sfakianakis said some 90,000 would benefit.

According to analysts, the king might soon reshuffle his cabinet to inject fresh blood and revive stalled reforms to address dissent at home. Saudi stability is of global concern. A key US ally, the top Opec producer holds more than a fifth of world oil reserves.

Part of the king's handouts will go to new funds to help Saudis to get housing loans, a pressing issue for the Gulf state's rising local population of 18 million.-Reuters




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