– The Associated Press

LONDON – Every country competing at the London Games will include female athletes for the first time in Olympic history after Saudi Arabia agreed Thursday to send two women to compete in judo and track and field.

The move by the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom to break with its practice of fielding male-only teams followed similar decisions by Qatar and Brunei.

“With Saudi Arabian female athletes now joining their fellow female competitors from Qatar and Brunei, it means that by London 2012 every national Olympic committee will have sent women to the Olympic Games,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said.

Saudi Arabia had been under intense pressure from the International Olympic Committee and human-rights groups to include female athletes. Thursday’s announcement followed months of IOC negotiations with the Saudis.

The two female Saudi athletes are Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo and 800-meter runner Sarah Attar.

“A big inspiration for participating in the Olympic Games is being one of the first women for Saudi Arabia to be going,” the 17-year-old Attar said in an IOC statement from her U.S. training base in San Diego. “It’s such a huge honor and I hope that it can really make some big strides for women over there to get more involved in sport.”

The two athletes, who were invited by the IOC, were entered by the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee by the July 9 deadline.

“This is very positive news and we will be delighted to welcome these two athletes in London in a few weeks’ time,” Rogge said.

The Gulf kingdom will also include female officials in their Olympic delegation for the first time.

About 10,500 athletes are expected to compete in London, representing more than 200 national Olympic committees.

“The IOC has been working very closely with the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee and I am pleased to see that our continued dialogue has come to fruition,” Rogge said. “The IOC has been striving to ensure a greater gender balance at the Olympic Games, and today’s news can be seen as an encouraging evolution.”

At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, 26 national teams had no women. The figure dropped to three in Beijing four years ago.

In Beijing, women represented 42 percent of the athletes, and the figure is expected to increase in London. Women’s boxing is included on the program in London for the first time.