Prince Saud al-Faisal said the first municipal elections earlier in February, open to men only, had been such a success it was possible the vote might be extended to women.
   
"The commissioner of elections said after the elections for municipal councils that they went so well and testing the water proved so appealing that the commissioner is going to suggest to the government to have women vote in the next municipal elections," he told BBC television on Sunday.
   
Ongoing reforms

The elections were the first stage of an unprecedented nationwide vote in the kingdom, which is edging towards cautious political reform.
   
The prince said modernisation would come about because of what the government was doing and "because of the actions of the women themselves".
   
But he said pressure from other countries to speed up the process was not welcome.
   
"We know we want to reform, we know we want to modernise, but for God's sake leave us alone," he said.
   
American pressure

"We know we want to reform, we know we want to modernise, but for God's sake leave us alone"

Prince Saud al-Faisal,
Saudi foreign minister

The United States has been particularly keen for its allies in the Arab world to move towards reforms, democracy and to extend rights to women. 
    
Many critics say that Saudi women are treated as second-class citizens and put under stringent legal guardianship of their husbands or male relatives.

Presently, they are forbidden to drive and cannot leave the country without the permission of a husband or male relative.
   
Increasingly, the rising educational level of women - there are now more female students than male ones at Saudi universities - has led to a belief that women's absence from public life and some professions has to change.