Middle East

Profile: King Salman of Saudi Arabia

Media captionKing Salman: "We will never deviate from our constitution"

King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud acceded to the Saudi throne on the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah.

He was governor of Riyadh province for 48 years before becoming defence minister in 2011 and crown prince a year later.

Aged 79 when he came to the throne, he had already taken on the duties of the king as Abdullah's health faded.

King Salman is part of an influential faction within the royal family formed of sons and grandsons of the late King Abdulaziz (usually referred to as Ibn Saud) by a favourite wife, Princess Hassa al-Sudairi.

After the deaths of the former king, Fahd, who ruled from 1982 until 2005, and two previous crown princes, Sultan and Nayef, Salman was already the most powerful surviving member of this faction.

King Salman: Key facts

  • Born on 31 December 1935
  • Son of Princess Hassa al-Sudairi
  • Governor of Riyadh from 1955-1960 and again from 1963 to 2011
  • Appointed defence minister upon death of his brother Crown Prince Sultan
  • Owns important stake in one of the Arab world's largest media groups

As governor of Riyadh, he oversaw its transformation from an isolated desert town into a crowded city of skyscrapers, universities and Western fast-food chains.

The post raised his international profile as he hosted visiting VIPs and envoys and helped secure foreign investment.

As defence minister he was head of the Saudi military as it joined the US and other Arab countries in air strikes in Syria in 2014 against the Islamic State militant group.

Image caption King Salman (left) has promoted his son Prince Mohammed (right) to defence minister

In common with some of the other most senior royals in government, he has few publicly acknowledged business interests.

Three of his sons in succession have chaired the Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG), which owns newspapers and magazines, including London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat.

King Salman is not believed himself ever to have been listed as a shareholder.

King Salman's sons include:

  • Prince Mohammed, whom he has appointed defence minister and head of the royal court
  • Deputy Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz
  • Prince Faisal, the governor of Medina
  • Prince Sultan, the head of the tourism authority and a former Royal Saudi Air Force pilot and astronaut
  • Prince Turki, who chairs SRMG.

The BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, says King Salman is not believed to be as personally interested in political or social reform as his predecessor.

King Salman's priority will be to maintain stability in Saudi Arabia, he says.

Image caption King Salman may seek a closer accommodation with the Saudi religious leadership

Karen Elliott House, author of a book on Saudi Arabia's political affairs, told the BBC King Salman "has a reputation for being more oriented towards the religious leadership of Saudi Arabia".

"You can assume there will be at least a slight accommodation to their desires for a more rigorous religion in Saudi Arabia," she said.

Other commentators have drawn attention to King Salman's reputation as a mediator within the huge Saudi royal family, with its complex network of competing factions.

This task has become more fraught as the second tier of senior political posts in Saudi Arabia - the control of key ministries and governorships - has passed from the sons to grandsons of the late King Abdulaziz.

Health issues

King Salman's own Sudairi faction within the family, once a powerful and united group of seven full brothers, has itself developed internal rivalries as the sons of those brothers establish their own power bases.

The king's health has also been a concern. He is reported to have suffered at least one stroke that has left him with limited movement in his left arm.

Correspondents say he has appeared alert and well-briefed in recent meetings but, given his age, there are concerns about his stamina.

After becoming king he announced that the new crown prince would be his half-brother Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the youngest surviving son of the late King Abdulaziz.

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