RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman is welcoming Saudi Arabia's decision to grant women the right to drive as "a big step for Saudi society."
 
Spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday that Merkel has repeatedly brought up the situation of women during visits to Saudi Arabia. He says "it is a particularly important issue to her."
 
Seibert added that "we support Saudi Arabia's reform course, we encourage Saudi Arabia to continue these reforms and also to strengthen civil rights."
 
Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world to ban women from driving. The royal decree, announced late Tuesday, comes into effect next summer, but it comes nearly three decades after women began agitating for the right to drive.