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The naturalization program will seek out individuals in Islamic scholarship, medicine, science, culture, sports and technology with a view to creating an "attractive environment" to cultivate and retain exceptional talent to help achieve Vision 2030 goals, SPA said.

Vision 2030 is a plan of reforms to create jobs and reduce the Saudi economy's dependence on oil.

According to local news reports on Monday, the group that was just naturalized includes Muslim clerics who supported some of King Salman's initiatives on religious tolerance, financial experts, medical doctors and academics who specialize in engineering, chemistry and communications.

The move comes as Saudi Arabia seeks to become a regional commercial hub and vie for foreign capital and talent.

In January, the United Arab Emirates announced a scheme that would grant citizenship to investors and other professionals including scientists, doctors and their families.

This followed a more flexible visa policy in recent years, offering longer residencies for certain types of investors, students and professionals.

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