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Report pofiles Saudi publisher of UK-based Al-Hayat newspaper

BBC Monitoring

Text of report by London-based, Saudi-owned Elaph website on 4 September

[Report by Sultan al-Qahtani in Riyadh: "Suspension of 'London-based Al-Hayat' and its Return: Latest Battle of 'Fighter From the Desert.' Khalid Bin-Sultan Led Successful Attempts To Have his Newspaper Published Again"]

Prince Khalid Bin-Sultan, publisher of the London-based "Al-Hayat" and its strongman and assistant Saudi defence minister, succeeded in saving his newspaper from the claws of selective censorship after the Culture and Information Ministry banned its distribution inside the kingdom for four days for criticizing certain ministries and its writers for exceeding the limits according to what informed sources said concerning the reasons for the ban.

According to "Ilaf" information, the prince, who is considered one of the most prominent second generation princes in his country, led strong attempts to prove the extent of his newspaper's independence through his firm stand of support for his editorial staff. He refused to publish again u! nder the ministry's conditions, thus helping "Al-Hayat's" return and allowing it to be distributed inside Saudi Arabia as of Friday.

This latest step of his refusal to restrict freedom of expression in his country is part of his career that was known for his facing difficulties since his training in the famous blue-blooded Sandhurst Military Academy, the breeder of kings and presidents and the cream of the ruling families' elites in the world which is based in Great Britain.

During the four-day suspension, the newspaper recorded financial losses, the value of the advertisements ready for publication in addition to the daily sales. But this did not budge it from its white protest stand. All this would certainly not have been done without the strong support of its prince and publisher Khalid Bin-Sultan.

This small battle can be described as the latest one of the "Fighter from the Desert", the prince in his forties who led an international coalition of more t! han 33 countries to liberate Kuwait in the early 1990's. He worked side by side with the most important military commanders in the world, among them the famous American General Schwarzkopf. Though arguments were a constant part between the Saudi prince and the famous American general during the Kuwait liberation war, the first visited his friend with whom he waged the war minute by minute after the war ended bringing gifts. Schwarzkopf's children gathered around this prince coming from a far away country after having seen many of his photos wearing his war uniform.

Since that international battle in which his star shone, Prince Khalid stopped wearing the military uniform except occasionally, almost once every year, the hours of the comprehensive exercises that his country holds and in which all the forces' branches take part.

Official photos published after the exercises show the prince in his military uniform overseeing the organization of the combat lines and movements of tanks and military vehicles and carrying in his hands bino! culars through which to observe the exercise field more clearly.

From seeing his photos, estimated in their thousands since the start of his political career, you can observe how firm he is even though they tell you that he is within a human who is active in charity work behind the curtains.

Being the eldest son of Prince Sultan Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, he underwent a stricter upbringing than his brothers. Though a young prince in a family ruling the largest and richest oil kingdom in the world, he did not imagine he would suffer all this pain he faced at Sandhurst and it never crossed his mind that one day he would plunge in the mud, that he would have to clean his room himself, or that he had to employ tricks to get his share of money.

His father's strict upbringing was a real reason for not showering him with money in his youth and his mother, towards whom he always felt deep love, was the channel providing him with money without excess until he grew up and returned to his country stronger than before.

When his father saw a photo of his official delegation, he noticed that his eldest son who was sitting in a chair behind him had his hand on his right cheek during a military celebration, sitting in a way the father considered "not proper." He was rebuked and reprimanded by his father for several hours. The young Khalid stopped sitting in this way after that for more than 20 years to this day.

Politically, his name was linked to the most important and noisiest events in his country's modern history. He was the architect of the ballistic missiles' deal with China in the late 1980's. He commanded the coalition forces against Iraq during the Second Gulf War. He is the architect of the strategists of modernizing the military sectors in his country through his post as the deputy defence minister.

The diversionary actions in the Chinese deal, which angered Washington for years, demonstrated his skills during the difficult days of the deal by resorting to various acts, the least of which wa! s his reading hundreds of documents under his hotel's bed sheet for fear international intelligence services would uncover the deal.

With time, he turned into an official that intelligence quarters are eager to follow and analyse his steps and his movements started to raise questions: Why did he go to Beijing again? What does he want from his visit to Pakistan? Did he whisper in his father's ear when he was meeting with that Western official, etc.?

Once the war was over, he decided to change his career. He sought permission from his father and submitted his resignation to King Fahd who accepted it after much insistence. He turned to his commercial activities and brought about many changes which placed him among the world's billionaires through his ownership of more than 35 companies around the world.

He became more passionate about horses, which made them win many international prizes. He found much time to spend with his children and family and started to! take more and more interest in one of his minor dreams, that of Al-Kh alidiyah ranch which has become one of the most important artistic and architectural masterpieces in the kingdom.

He also devoted himself to writing his memoirs which were published under the title "Fighter from the Desert." It was the first of its kind by an important Saudi official. This is in addition to his interest in his "Al-Hayat" newspaper that is published in London.

He bought 125 fabric pieces recording the Second Gulf War from the British artist Andrew Vicary, the only person he allowed to be present in the battlefields during the war, for the sum of 17 million sterling pounds.

His paintings, each of which measures more than 10 meters, depict the tanks, the stealth aircraft, and the faces of the coalition forces' commanders, among them Gen. Schwarzkopf.

Prince Khalid continued to enjoy this new quiet life which he had chosen far from the buzz of aircraft and artillery shells until duty called him again by a royal order from King Fahd appoin! ting him assistant to his father, the defence minister, with the rank of minister. He then returned more strongly to the front pages of newspapers and television screens.

Source: Elaph website, London, in Arabic 4 Sep 07


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