08/01/2005, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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King Fahd, between openness to the US and support for Islamic fundamentalism (Overview)

Riyadh (AsiaNews) – Born in 1923, King Fahd was one of the 42 children of King Abd-al-Aziz, founder of modern Saudi Arabia in 1932. His mother Hussah was Abd-al-Aziz's fifth wife.

Although he only attended primary-level schools and received a rigid religious education, he became Education Minister in 1953, playing an important role in building schools and furthering the education of women in the country.

In 1962 he was appointed Interior Minister and in 1975 became Crown Prince, running the kingdom's affairs on behalf of his brother, King Khalid, who was ill.

When the latter died in 1982, he ascended to the throne and appointed his half-brother Abdullah, Crown Prince.

In 1976 he pulled out Saudi troops from the Golan Heights.

In 1979 he broke off diplomatic relations with Egypt after the latter signed a peace treaty with Israel.

On August 13, 1980, when the Israeli parliament passed a law making Jerusalem the "eternal and indivisible capital of Israel", he called on his subjects to wage holy war against Israel.

In September of the same year, when the Iran-Iraq War broke out, he pledged Riyadh's support to Baghdad.

In 1981 he presented a peace plan for the Mideast.

The following year, he backed the Palestinians and Syria after Israel intervened in Lebanon.

Throughout the 1980s he supported Afghan mujāhidīns and the US in the fight against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan—Osama bin Laden was among the Arab volunteers who left to fight in Afghanistan.

In 1987 clashes between Iranian pilgrims and Saudi police in Makkah left hundreds of people dead.

In 1988, King Fahd broke off diplomatic relations with Iran.

In 1990 he sided with the US in the first Gulf War—the US used Saudi territory to launch its air offensive against Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

In 1992 he approved a constitutional reform that opened the way to succession to "the best of sons and grandsons" of Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud, causing friction within the royal family—until then the eldest of the founder's sons was normally appointed king.

In 1995 he suffered a stroke and his half-brother Abdullah became the de facto ruler.

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