Charismatic Abdullah is Saudi new king

Aug. 1, 2005 at 6:16 AM
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Charismatic Crown Prince Abdullah, who succeeded his half-brother King Fahd Monday, has effectively ruled Saudi Arabia since 1995.

Abdullah has grown into his role as de facto ruler of the oil-rich kingdom since Fahd suffered a severe stroke that weakened him physically and mentally.

Abdullah, 82, son of Saudi Arabia's founder King Abdul Aziz al-Saud, received a traditional Islamic education and his first public office was mayor of the holy city of Mecca.

He served as deputy defense minister and commander of the National Guard before being appointed crown prince in 1982.

Abdullah is one of the most influential men in the kingdom and he is highly respected for his honesty.

He is a staunch supporter of conflict with Israel, and has been a strong critic of American support for Israel and the continuing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

In March 2002, Abdullah attracted world attention when he proposed at an Arab summit in Beirut to normalize Arab relations with Israel in return for the latter's withdrawal from Arab territories captured in the 1967 Middle East war. The summit adopted what became to be known as Abdullah's initiative.

Within Saudi Arabia, Abdullah is regarded as the driving force behind the reform movement.

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