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SAUDI ARABIA - The Political Leadership - King Fahd.

The Supreme Council of Saudi Aramco, chaired by King Fahd, has members from the government and the private sector. At its first meeting in March 1989, the council approved a programme for 1990-95 covering the expansion of the company's oil production capacity, export and marketing facilities, overseas partnerships, and new exploration. Its meetings have been rare after the Gulf war of early 1991.

King Fahd Ibn Abdel Aziz Al Saud: Proclaimed king in June 1982 by the Council of Elders and Ulema, upon the death of King Khalid, Fahd has global responsibilities that come with being an absolute monarch controling the largest oil reserves in the world. He also heads the cabinet as prime minister. His knowledge of the oil sector has accumulated since April 1973, when he founded the Supreme Petroleum Council - a precursor of Saudi Aramco's Supreme Council - under then King Faisal Ibn Abdel Aziz. He has been uniquely qualified to be the man with final authority over the Saudi oil sector. But in recent years he has delegated power to the Crown Prince and 1st Deputy PM Abdullah Ibn Abdel Aziz (see profile in OMT).

King Fahd issued a Basic Law of government in March 1992, decreed that the succession to the throne was to be altered eventually with a collegiate of about 500 princes to choose a future king, and introduced a Shura Council as well as a provincial system in a manner which had ripples on the ruling family. He reshuffled his cabinet in a big way on Aug. 2, 1995.

King Fahd was born in 1921 as the son of Abdel Aziz Ibn Saud, who established the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. His mother was Hussah, the most favoured among Abdel Aziz's many wives, of the powerful Sudairi clan. She raised Fahd and her other six sons - who together form the "Sudairi Seven" - as well as her daughters in an enticing political atmosphere, always urging them to stick together. And they have. The Sudairi Seven presently control all the vital sectors in Saudi Arabia, from oil to defence and internal security. They function as a close-knit group and try to meet at least once a week.

Prince Sultan, minister of defence and aviation, 2nd deputy PM and inspector general, was born in 1924 as the second of the Sudairi full-brothers. He has wide powers in administrative, military, political and business fields and is described as the most important man in Saudi Arabia next to King Fahd and CP Abdullah. He is the overseer of "offset business" generated by military contracts, partly tied to oil barters, and the civil administration, and an ambitious military expansion programme. The defence ministry is one of the biggest generators of projects in the kingdom. Sultan is a serious and industrious man. He has a strong character. Prince Sultan was appointed second deputy premier in June 1982, as Fahd became king, thus coming next to Crown Prince Abdullah Ibn Abdel Aziz in the line of succession. He received palace education and was sent to the Princes' School in Riyadh. He began working at an early age. His career: deputy to the emir of Riyadh, Prince Nasir Ibn Abdel Aziz in 1940, at the age of 16; emir of Riyadh, 1944; minister of agriculture, 1953; minister of communications, 1955; defence & aviation minister, October 1962. Sultan has several sons, including: Ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar Ibn Sultan, a key figure in Saudi diplomacy and behind the Arab-Israeli peace process; Prince Khalid Ibn Sultan, who commanded the Arab/Islamic side of the US-led coalition which defeated Iraq in early 1991, and now is the agent of French electronics group Thomson-CSF and controls London-based 'Al Hayat' newspaper; and Prince Fahd Ibn Sultan, a deputy minister for social welfare at the ministry of labour and social affairs.

Prince Nayef is in charge of security as interior minister since late 1975. He is a tough man, very capable in dealing with any internal challenge. Born in 1933, he got wide experience in security since 1970. His career: emir of Riyadh, 1953-1954; emir of Medina; deputy interior minister under Fahd - June 1970-75; minister of state for internal affairs; and minister of interior since 1975.

Prince Salman is considered the political guide of the Sudairi Seven and is known for his high intelligence. Apart from being the emir of the vast Riyadh province, the most important in Saudi Arabia, he plays many roles. One of his sons, Prince Abdel Aziz Ibn Salman, now is a deputy oil minister (see DT 22). Prince Ahmad is the deputy minister of interior. Together Princes Sultan, Nayef and Ahmad are considered the tough ones among the Sudairi Seven. Prince Abdel Rahman, deputy minister of defence & aviation, is also in charge of the Sudairi Seven's business interests and their proxies. Prince Turki is no longer active but takes part in some meetings of the group. A generous man, he keeps a low profile. He was once a deputy defence minister.

Fahd studied at the Palace School for princes. He showed an interest in Arab history and literature. Young Fahd used to wait outside his father's office to join the advisors in subsequent meetings on local or foreign issues. One day, shortly after World War II, his father called him to his office and asked him why he wanted to attend the king's Advisory Board. Fahd explained how fascinating those meetings were and how much they had improved his education. Eventually, Ibn Saud asked him to attend board meetings and, on his mother's recommendation, Fahd was later made a member of the board. Fahd travelled extensively and met with Arab and Western leaders in the 1940s and early 1950s. He was fascinated with the Western way of life. In 1953, on Ibn Saud's death, when CP Saud became king, Fahd was made minister of education. In 1961 he became minister of interior when Faisal, then the CP and PM, formed his second cabinet. He retained the interior portfolio after Faisal toppled King Saud in 1964. From then on Fahd became deeply involved in the modernisation of Saudi Arabia.

Eventually, Fahd was promoted to 2nd deputy PM and retained the post of interior minister. After King Faisal's assassination in March 1975, King Khalid delegated government affairs to Fahd who had become CP. Khalid died on June 13, 1982 and Fahd became king. In October 1986, King Fahd dismissed Shaikh Ahmad Zaki Al Yamani as oil minister and reversed Yamani's market share strategy in favour of price defence. He dismissed Abdel Hady Taher as governor of Petromin in November 1986. The king made Hisham Nazer oil minister, and moved to establish Saudi Aramco's Supreme Council and its board of directors in March 1989. He was to chair the Supreme Council while the oil minister was to chair the company's board of directors. Apart from King Fahd, the first Supreme Council then consisted of the following:

- Hisham Nazer, as oil minister. Nazer was replaced as oil minister in August 1995 by Ali Naimi (see his profile in OMT & DT).

- Mohammed Ali Abal Khail, then minister of finance and economy. He retired and was replaced in the August 1995 reshuffle by Sulaiman Ibn Abdel Aziz Al Sulaim. But Sulaim resigned two months later for ill health and state sinister Abdel Aziz Al Khoweiter became acting minister of finance and economy. In early 1996, King Fahd made state sinister Dr. Ibrahim Al Assaf minister of finance and economy.

- Ibrahim Al Anqari, then minister of municipal and rural affairs. Anqari has been close to Fahd for decades. He acted as his spokesman from 1954, when Fahd was minister of education and Anqari headed his office.

- Omar Abdel Qader Al Faqih, a minister of state in previous governments. Faqih had been involved in the oil sector since the 1950s when he worked for the General Directorate of Petroleum and Mineral Resources.

- Ali Al Naimi, then head of Saudi Aramco.

- Sulaiman Olayan, head of Olayan Group. The most famous among the council members from the private sector, Olayan plays many roles in Saudi Arabia and abroad. He is close to the Sudairi Seven.

- Wahib Said Binzagr, head of the giant Jeddah-based Binzagr Group of companies, He has close links with the royal family.

- Khalid Bin Mahfouz, of the Bin Mahfouz clan, was brought to the Supreme Council in 1989. But he recently lost control to the National Commercial Bank. He controls Nimir Petroleum Co. which is involved in E&P ventures in several countries. But he is no longer on the Supreme Council.

- Saleh Al Fadl, a leading businessman of the Western Province, Fadl had been on the boards of directors of Petromin and other state companies for many years.

- Dr. Faisal Al Bashir, a former deputy minister of planning. A technocrat turned businessman, he is a leading expert in industrial planning.
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Publication:APS Review Gas Market Trends
Geographic Code:7SAUD
Date:Nov 29, 1999
Words:1472
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