Saudi Arabia's oil minister says the opening of a new multibillion dollar coed university is a pivotal step in the oil-rich kingdom's quest to diversify its economic base.
Ali Naimi attended the inauguration Wednesday outside the coastal city of Jeddah.
He said environmental research would be a priority in the university where more than 800 students have already enrolled. More than 70 international faculty are on board.
Naimi said the university aims to attract some 2,000 researchers. His remarks were carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The new project is aimed at promoting scientific freedom in a country where strict implementation of Islamic teachings has often been blamed for stifling innovation.