Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday vowed to restore “moderate, open” Islam in a kingdom known for its ultra-conservative rule.

“We are returning to what we were before, a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world,” he said at an economic forum in Riyadh.

“We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today,” he added. “We will end extremism very soon.”

The crown prince's statement is the most direct attack by a top official on the Gulf country's influential conservative religious establishment.

Since his sudden appointment on June 21, Prince Mohammed has pushed ahead with reforms.

He is widely regarded as being the force behind King Salman's decision last month to lift a long-standing ban on women driving.

Earlier on Tuesday, Riyadh announced the launch of an independent economic zone along the kingdom's northwestern coastline.

The project, dubbed NEOM, will operate under regulations separate from those that govern the rest of Saudi Arabia.

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