(By Susan Baaghil/Reuters)

“What these women are doing is brave and what they are seeking is right,” Hillary Rodham Clinton said this morning in her first public comments on the issue. “I am moved by it and I support them.”

Saudi rights advocates had issued repeated calls for Clinton to make a public statement of support. They have also sought support from the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.

Several dozen women in Saudi Arabia who have defied the ban on driving recently have been arrested.

When asked Monday why Clinton had not addressed the women’s campaign, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said the secretary had been engaged in “quiet diplomacy” on the issue.

Clinton said this morning that the Saudi “effort belongs” to the women behind it.

Her comment suggested that any further U.S. diplomacy on the issue would remain, as Nuland said, quiet.