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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 16:58 GMT
Profile: Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah
Crown Prince Abdullah
Crown Prince Abdullah: Low profile leader
Crown Prince Abdullah has effectively ruled Saudi Arabia since King Fahd, his elder half-brother, suffered a stroke in 1995.

But despite his prominent position and control of a quarter of the world's oil reserves, remarkably little is known about the crown prince.

His entry in "Who's Who" runs to a meagre seven lines.

Since 1995 he has grown into his role as de facto leader and enjoys widespread credibility among his people

Abdullah's exact birthdate is unknown, but he is widely believed to have been born in 1923, one of 37 sons - by 16 wives - of the late King Abd al-Aziz.

He was brought up in the desert according to Bedouin tradition, and learned their rugged and frugal lifestyle.

Today he drives a Rolls Royce with the registration 001, but his public image is one of relative piety in contrast to some of his more flamboyant contemparies.

At 79 years old, the crown prince remains a physically imposing presence, but is known as a gentle man. A chainsmoker, he speaks with a stutter and is far less austere than other Saudi leaders.

He reportedly greeted journalists arriving for a recent press conference in his garden wearing training shoes.

Limited reform

Since 1995 he has grown into his role as de facto leader. Abdullah has won praise from Saudi liberals for advocating reform.

Saudi Arabia remains a deeply traditional country

Analysts say that while the crown prince may not be about to radically liberalise Saudi society, he enjoys widespread credibility among his people.

He has allowed mild criticism of the government in the press, and hinted that more women should be allowed to work.

Saudi traditionalists appreciate his forthright manner, and welcomed his recent criticism of the United States' foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

See also:

24 Mar 02 | Middle East
Arafat's travel dilemma
25 Mar 02 | Middle East
Beirut given summit facelift
25 Mar 02 | Media reports
Great expectations from Beirut summit
27 Feb 02 | Middle East
What is in the Saudi peace initiative?
21 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Quick guide: Arab League
04 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Timeline: Arab League
23 Jan 02 | Middle East
Profile: Amr Moussa
26 Mar 02 | Middle East
Bright Beirut offers template for peace
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