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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 September 2007, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Senior Saudi royal demands reform
Prince Talal Bin Abdul-Aziz
Prince Talal is known as a bit of a maverick
A senior Saudi prince has said he plans to form a political party and has criticised other senior royals for monopolising power and blocking reform.

Talal Bin Abdul-Aziz, a half-brother of King Abdullah, also criticised the jailing of well-known reformists.

Saudi officials made no immediate comment to Prince Talal's remarks.

The prince, who holds no official post, is seen as something of a maverick due to his past calls for reform, says BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy.

In the 1960s, he became known as the "Red Prince" when he broke with the ruling family and went into exile in Egypt, whose president, Gamal Abdul Nasser, was a severe critic of the Gulf kingdom.

We, in particular the sons of Abdul-Aziz [the founder of Saudi Arabia], should take part, both in expressing opinions and in decision-making
Prince Talal Bin Abdul-Aziz

But today, the prince is considered to be close to King Abdullah, who was seen as sympathetic to reform when he came to the throne two years ago.

Prince Talal is now trying, in a very public way, to test the limits of political change, our correspondent says.

'Eliminating others'

The prince's outspoken call for change came in an interview with the Associated Press. In it, he declared that he wanted to launch a political party, something that is banned in Saudi Arabia.

"I know this is not an easy thing to do, and we have a lot of obstacles ahead of us, but we have to start forming this party," he said.

Without naming names, Prince Talal said he wanted the party to challenge those who have been "holding executive power for some 70 years" - effectively attacking his own brothers.

We have signed international conventions, such as on women's rights, and we should respect them
Prince Talal

"This is a group which is not only blocking reform, but is also trying to eliminate others and take everything in its hand," he said.

"We, in particular the sons of Abdul-Aziz, should take part, both in expressing opinions and in decision-making."

Many Saudis are asking why the kingdom's smaller Gulf Arab neighbours are moving ahead politically faster than it is, he added.

The prince, who is in his 70s, also criticised the continued detention of several Saudi activists who have been advocating reform. He described the imprisoned activists as prisoners of conscience.

"They should be either tried in an independent court or set free," he said.

Prince Talal's son, al-Walid Bin Talal, is one of the wealthiest businessmen in the world, with a fortune believed to be in excess of $20bn.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
14 Jul 07 |  Country profiles
Saudis 'ban' pan-Arab newspaper
29 Aug 07 |  Middle East
Getting to the top in Saudi Arabia
15 Dec 06 |  Middle East
Saudis vow loyalty to new monarch
03 Aug 05 |  Middle East
Profile: Saudi political opposition
10 Feb 05 |  Middle East



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