Saudi Arabia stops medical treatment programmes in Canada

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Riyadh : Saudi Arabia has stopped all medical treatment programmes in Canada and is coordinating for the transfer of Saudi patients to medical facilities outside the country, Saudi press agency reported on Wednesday.

The agency cited Dr Fahd bin Ibrahim Al Tamimi, Saudi Health Attache in the US and Canada, as saying that "the mission seeks to ensure the safety of Saudi patients who receive treatment in Canada with their companions, and to complete their treatment elsewhere".

The move came amid an intensifying spat over human rights between the two countries, after Saudi Arabia expelled Canada's Ambassador in Riyadh, recalled its own Ambassador from Ottawa and froze "all new business" with Canada.

The Middle East country also decided to suspend all training and scholarship programmes in Canada by the end of the Islamic calendar year in September, the Cultural Bureau of Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Education announced on Monday.

The abrupt diplomatic row broke out as Ottawa urged Riyadh to release civil society and women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia, according to a statement issued by Canada's Foreign Office.