The White House says Saudi Arabia is taking an important step ahead in expanding women's rights by allowing women to vote and run in local elections in 2015.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor (VEE'-tor) says this reform recognizes the "significant contributions" that women make in the Muslim kingdom. He says the announcement by King Abdullah will give Saudi women more ways to participate "in the decisions that affect their lives and communities."

Vietor says the U.S. is behind Saudi Arabia as it puts into place this change and other reforms.

The king says he ordered the move after consulting with his nation's top religious clerics.