Saudi Develops 1st Domestically-Made Car

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- The desert kingdom whose oil reserves help fuel the world has developed its first car -- an SUV that is named after a nimble desert deer found in Saudi Arabia.

The Ghazal 1, the product of at least two years of work at the country's King Saud University, was unveiled Monday night by King Abdullah at a ceremony at the King Saud University.

The rugged vehicle is intended to match the kingdom's tough terrain.

Higher Education Minister Khaled al-Anqary said the vehicle was proof that Saudi youth, given the right resources and opportunities, are "able to realize aspirations and excel."

The vehicle's costs have not been disclosed, and no announcement was made about when, or if, Saudi Arabia will set up a production plant to build the sports utility vehicle.

Said Darwish, a professor at KSU's industrial engineering department, was quoted by the Saudi-based Arab News as saying planned production will be 20,000 vehicles per year.

King Abdullah, who has ruled the oil-rich nation for five years, has made education a key priority and has stressed the need for greater employment opportunities for young Saudis. Like many of the other oil-rich Gulf nations, expatriate workers play key roles in the country's economy and fill jobs ranging from janitors to professors and bankers.

Saudi Arabia, home to the world's largest proven reserves of crude, last year set up a new coed, postgraduate science and technology university believed to have cost billions of dollars.

The university, intended as a world class research institution, however drew quick criticism from conservatives in the deeply religious Islamic nation who have objected to, among other things, men and women studying together.