Saudi woman minister needs permission to be on TV

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia's first woman cabinet minister cannot appear on television without permission, a newspaper quoted her as saying on Monday.

Noura al-Faiz's appointment in February as deputy minister for women's education was hailed as a big step for the integration of women in conservative Saudi Arabia where a puritanical form of Islam bans women from driving, voting and mixing with unrelated men.

"I don't take my veil off and I will not appear on television unless it is allowed for us to do so," Faiz told the daily Shamss, which published a picture of the deputy minister wearing a headscarf with her face showing.

Saudi state television has hired Saudi women as presenters in recent years as part of a reform drive launched after the Sept. 11 attacks in U.S. cities which focused international attention on radicalism in the world's biggest oil exporter.

Faiz also dismissed calls for girls to be allowed to do sport at school, which Saudi Arabia's powerful religious establishment has prevented. "It's way too early," the paper reported her as saying.

Her ministry was not immediately available for comment.