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King Abdullah

King of Saudi Arabia (2005–)
Born: 1924
Birthplace: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

King Abdullah (formally known as Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud) officially assumed the Saudi throne in August 2005. He had been the de facto ruler of the country since his half-brother, King Fahd, suffered a stroke in 1995. One of about 40 sons of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abd al-Azziz ibn Saud , Abdullah was educated in Saudi Arabia. He does not speak English and is considered less sympathetic to the west than King Fahd.

Abdullah has the reputation of leading a relatively simple, pious life, in keeping with the kingdom's conservative Wahhabi philosophy. Some others in the royal family have been accused of lavish excesses. Abdullah is an ardent equestrian and founder of the Riyadh Equestrian Club. Pan-Arab in his outlook, Abdullah enjoys excellent relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Abdullah's Syrian-born wife is an Alawite, the religious sect to which Bashar belongs.

Since 1962, Abdullah has commanded the 57,000-member national guard, turning it into a modern army capable of defending the country's oil fields. He is also head of the Higher Economic Council and chair of the 18-member family council he formed in June 2000. Since he has no other full brothers, Abdullah has often found it difficult to create alliances within the enormous royal family. His son, Prince Mutib, is deputy commander of the national guard.

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