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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June 2004, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Profile: Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah
By Gerald Butt
Middle East analyst

Crown Prince Abdullah
Abdullah is untainted by corruption and a cautious reformer

The man immediately declared successor to the late King Fahd, Crown Prince Abdullah, had over recent years already become the public face of Saudi Arabia.

Crown Prince Abdullah became effective head of state in the mid-1990s, when ill health forced King Fahd to withdraw from public life.

He has involved himself energetically in domestic and international issues, and as a spokesman for his country he enjoys wide respect at home and abroad.

Prince Abdullah was born in Riyadh in 1923, the son of King Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud and Fahada bint Asi al-Shuraym of the Rashid clan.

He received a traditional Islamic education in Riyadh and grew up steeped in the traditions and customs of the ruling family.

His first public office was as mayor of the holy city of Mecca.

In 1963, he became deputy defence minister and commander of the National Guard - drawn from the most loyal of the tribes in Saudi Arabia and regarded as the kingdom's most reliable armed force.

He has remained commander of the guard ever since. Prince Abdullah was nominated Crown Prince in 1982.


As a senior member of the innermost circle of Saudi princes, Abdullah is one of the most influential men in the kingdom - respected for his honesty and untainted by corruption.

He is also keen to keep a balance between the simple traditions of Saudi life and the need for modernisation and reform.

Crown Prince Abdullah recognises the need for close political and economic ties with the West, but he would like to see this relationship kept in check and balanced by closer links between Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

Arab disputes

The crown prince has on several occasions tried to mediate in inter-Arab disputes.

In 1984, he expressed support for the Syrian position in Lebanon and demanded a withdrawal of American marines from the area.

He has also been a strong critic of American support for Israel and the continuing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

In March 2002 he attracted international attention when he suggested that the Arabs would be prepared to normalize relations with Israel if the latter withdrew to the 1967 boundaries.

Crown Prince Abdullah's fears about Saudi Arabia's identification with the West was evident in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Staunchly Western-oriented members of the royal family advocated the immediate stationing of American forces in Saudi Arabia.

But the heir to throne was reluctant for the kingdom to invite the American troops into Saudi Arabia - where the holy Islamic city of Mecca is situated.


Crown Prince Abdullah is an imposing figure who has acquired the charisma of an international statesman without adopting the flamboyance of some of his contemporaries.

He normally talks quietly and speaks with a stutter. But he is not a man to hold his tongue when he feels strongly about an issue.

At an Arab summit in Egypt before the US-led invasion of Iraq television cameras caught him angrily berating the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, for derogatory remarks made by the latter.

Within Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Abdullah is the driving force behind the nascent reform movement.

His steps in this direction have been carefully measured, showing that he is sensitive to the wishes of those who oppose change as well as those advocating it.

Few Saudi leaders are better placed, in terms of public respect, to succeed in the difficult task ahead than the Saudi heir to throne.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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