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Saudi Arabia and France signed 20 economic deals worth more than $18 billion, Al Arabiya TV said yesterday as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman visits Paris.

Under the reforms closely associated with the crown prince, social restrictions have been loosened, such as bans on cinemas and women driving.

The kingdom also revealed that it would enter short films at the Cannes film festival next month.

"I can not think of a better partner for culture and art than France", Saudi Culture Minister Awwad Alawwad told AFP.

"The discussions were friendly, which allowed the two men to establish a personal relationship", Macron's office said. He also accused Iran of supporting terrorism.

Macron hosted a gala send-off dinner for the crown prince at the presidential Elysee palace. He has promised to promote a more moderate form of Islam.

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The memoranda of understanding cover sectors including petrochemicals, water treatment, tourism, health, agricultural and cultural activities, the French-Saudi business forum said in a statement.

In February, Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority (GEA) announced it would stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of a year ago, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.

"These people should know that by levelling baseless accusations against Iran and harbouring their delusions about the country, they can not close their eyes to this reality that all regional states and nations as well as close observers of the regional and global developments are fully aware of Saudi Arabia's role in creating, sponsoring and arming the terrorist and violent groups like ISIS in the region", he noted.

During his news conference with bin Salman, Macron defended French weapons sales to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen despite mounting pressure on the French leader to scale back arms support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, an ally of Riyadh in the Yemen war.

The spokesman then said the current rulers of Saudi Arabia have turned themselves into the icons of violence and crimes in the Middle East along with the Zionist regime by further meddling in the internal affairs of the regional states, contributing to the regional destabilisation and problems.


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