By Gerald Butt
Middle East analyst
Fahd: While still the ultimate arbiter of Saudi policy, he has withdrawn from public life
King Fahd has been Saudi Arabia's monarch since 1982 when King Khalid died. But, after suffering a stroke in 1995, he has been little more than a figurehead, with Crown Prince Abdullah performing most of the head-of-state functions.
While still the ultimate arbiter of Saudi policy, King Fahd's poor health has forced him to remain in the background of public life.
Fahd Bin Abd-al-Aziz was born in Riyadh in 1923, the son of King Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud, the founder of the kingdom, and Hassa bint Ahmadi al-Sudayri.
He is one of seven sons born to King Abd-al-Aziz's favourite wife - and as such is referred to as one of the Sudayri seven.
Fahd studied at a private school set up for members of the royal family in Riyadh and later became a student of Islam in Mecca.
Fahd entered public life when he was in his early twenties, serving under his brother, Faisal, who was foreign minister at the time.
The two men were present at the signing of the United Nations Charter in 1945.
At the age of 30 he became education minister, holding the post for seven years, before taking over the interior portfolio in 1962.
He later became first deputy prime minister, and in 1975, when Khalid became king, Fahd was named as crown prince.
In the early years of his monarchy, King Fahd engaged his country more than his predecessors had in regional and international affairs.
For example, he put his weight behind Arab League efforts to end the 15-year civil war in Lebanon by facilitating talks among leaders of the warring factions in the Saudi city of Taif.
In 1981, he drew up a peace plan for the Middle East that was adopted an Arab League summit the following year.
On the international front, King Fahd has encouraged close relations between the kingdom and the United States, allowing American forces to be based in the kingdom.
But the relationship has been damaged since the 11 September 2001 bombing in America.
Also on the international stage, King Fahd has sought to highlight his country's privileged position of being situated on the land where Islam was born.
In 1986 he adopted the title of Servant of the Two Holy Places - at Mecca and Medina.
Liberal critics of King Fahd within Saudi Arabia accuse him of failing to take the initiative in introducing political reforms and of giving in to Western pressure on this issue.
Reformers and Islamists alike also blame him for appearing to ignore the corruption and excesses of certain members of the royal family.
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