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Saudi Arabia bans lewd license plates

No SEX or USA on Saudi vanity plates

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Saudi Arabia has banned auto license tags whose Arabic characters spell out offensive words when romanized, with the list of banned combinations including "USA", al-Watan newspaper reported Sunday.

Saudi plates normally have three Arabic characters and three numbers, but the growing fashion is for auto owners also to display a version using the Latin alphabet and some buyers of personalized “vanity plates" deliberately choose Arabic letters which turn into words like "SEX", "ASS" and "NUT."

The authorities in charge of issuing vanity plates have released a list of nine prohibited three-letter combinations, and ordered all branches to stop renewing plates that include them, according to Watan.

On the list are combinations like "BUT," "BAD" and "BAR" -- the latter presumably a problem because it suggests alcohol, which is strictly prohibited in the conservative Islamic kingdom.

But first on the list, for unexplained reasons, is the combination "USA".

Some 90,000 plates with the prohibited letter combinations are being replaced, Watan said.

Vanity plates are fashionable with wealthy and young Saudis, and auctions of special combinations have brought in as much a six million riyals ($1.6 million) for one plate, the newspaper reported.