Source AP ©

Key prince to form party only if king approves

After shocking the royal family with an announcement of creating a political party in a country that bans such groups a key Saudi prince said Thursday he will only do so with the king's approval.

Prince Talal bin Abdul-Aziz, a half brother of King Abdullah, said in a statement that even if he has differences with his brothers "this should not cast doubt on the loyalty of the members of the family to each other and their concern for mutual interests and for the welfare of their people."

The prince's statement softens remarks he made to The Associated Press and other media outlets earlier this month in which he said he plans to form a political party and would invite jailed reformists to join it.

In the AP interview, the prince, the father of Saudi Arabia's richest private business tycoon, also criticized what he termed an alleged monopoly on Saudi power by one faction within the Saudi royal family which he did not name.

Saudi officials have not publicly commented on Talal's remarks. But media reports suggested the call was not well received inside the family and that it may have been triggered by a fight he had with his brothers over certain privileges.

It was not clear whether Thursday's statement came as a result of pressure from Talal's powerful brothers. The prince said he issued it to respond to queries he received from the media and Arab citizens.

Talal holds no government post and is considered something of an outsider within the royal family. In 1962, he was forced to go into exile amid reports at the time that he was planning an Egyptian-backed revolt against then King Faisal. He became known as the "Red Prince" for his close ties to then Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was pro-Soviet.

In his statement, Talal stressed that his sense of belonging to his family is so deep that "if anyone sprinkles the family with water, I will strike him with fire."

The prince said he brought up the issue of political parties in his interviews "for the sake of discussion only and we have conditioned it on the king's approval."

"If he rejects it, we will obey," said Talal.

Talal has called for reforms in the past, including the election of an assembly to enact legislation, question officials and protect public wealth. He has also called on the kingdom's powerful Wahhabi religious establishment to make changes, including on women's rights.

Talal, who was allowed to return to Saudi Arabia in 1964 after reconciling with Faisal, now heads a charity, the Arab Gulf Program for United Nations Development Organizations. He is the father of billionaire businessman Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, whom Forbes ranks as the world's 13th richest person.

Talal is believed to be closer to King Abdullah than the rest of his brothers.

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