Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Wednesday, 20 July 2005 17:33 UK

Profile: Prince Turki al-Faisal

Prince Turki al-Faisal
Prince Turki headed Saudi's foreign intelligence service for 24 years

Prince Turki al-Faisal, who is set to become Saudi ambassador to the US, is a former head of foreign intelligence.

Prince Turki has cut his diplomatic teeth as Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UK and Ireland since January 2003.

He led the Saudi external intelligence service for 24 years until August 2001, when he resigned from the post.

The prince, 60, will be entrusted with maintaining the good relations between Washington and Riyadh built up by his predecessor, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

'Evil cult'

Analysts consider Prince Turki to be a skilled diplomat who has successfully steered a difficult course as envoy to London in the period following the 11 September 2001 attacks and the US-led invasion of Iraq.

A member of the Saudi royal family, he has repeatedly defended his country against claims it could do more to tackle the threat posed by al-Qaeda.

During the 1980s he had contact with Osama bin Laden and, in 1998, sought unsuccessfully to have the al-Qaeda chief extradited from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia.

In December 2004, Prince Turki accepted substantial libel damages and an apology from the magazine Paris Match over claims he himself was linked to the 11 September attacks.

The prince described the allegations as "outrageous" and condemned al-Qaeda as an "evil cult" which the international community must fight to destroy.

US education

The ambassador weighed into the controversy surrounding US filmmaker Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, when he condemned it as "grossly unfair" to Saudis.

He accused Moore of failing to carry out proper research and dismissed his claims the Bush administration helped high-ranking Saudis to leave the US immediately after the 11 September attacks.

In 1993, Prince Turki was involved in mediating between warring Afghan factions who had taken over Kabul a year earlier.

He was appointed an adviser in the Saudi Royal Court in 1973, becoming head of the General Intelligence Directorate in 1977.

Born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the prince was educated at Princeton, Cambridge and Georgetown.

He is the brother of Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and son of the late King Faisal.

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