RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has sacked a senior cleric after he decried cautious reforms in the world's top oil exporter that allowed women to mix with unmarried men, Saudi Gazette reported on Saturday.

The decision to relieve Sheikh Abdulmohsen al-Obeikan of his position as royal adviser was made in a decree issued on the recommendation of Crown Prince Nayef, himself a reputed conservative.

The move fits a pattern of recent years in which senior clerics who oppose the government's cautious social reforms too openly have lost their jobs.

Although Obeikan has previously backed government positions on reforms including gender mixing at university, he recently gave a radio interview attacking the government for changing the position of women in society.

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