RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – First lady Laura Bush helped launch a screening facility in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as part of a U.S.-Saudi initiative to raise breast cancer awareness in the kingdom where doctors struggle to break long-held taboos about the disease.
Bush’s trip to Saudi Arabia, her first to the oil-rich kingdom, is part of a regional tour that aims to highlight the need for countries to share resources and unite in the fight against breast cancer.
“Breast cancer does not respect national boundaries, which is why people from every country must share their knowledge, resources and experience to protect women from this disease,” Bush said in a speech at the King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh.
“The cure for breast cancer can come from a researcher in Washington or a young doctor in Riyadh,” she added.
Bush, who wore a navy blue pant suit, arrived in Riyadh from the United Arab Emirates, her first Mideast stop. Visiting female dignitaries are not required to don the traditional black cloak that all women in Saudi Arabia must wear in public. She was greeted by Prince Faisal bin Abdullah, the king’s son, who is honorary president of the Saudi Cancer Society.
Bush visited the Abdul-Latif cancer screening center, the country’s first, where she met with Saudi women affected by breast cancer.
She later witnessed the signing the U.S.-Saudi Arabia Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research agreement at a packed auditorium at the King Fahad Medical City.
Bush, whose mother and grandmother suffered from breast cancer, was also scheduled to meet with King Abdullah and with breast cancer survivors during her visit.
She will then travel to Kuwait, where she will meet with female democratic reformers, legal advocates and business leaders.
Laura Bush last visited the Middle East in 2005, stopping in Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories to promote freedom, education and the role of women.