Saudi prince wants to set up political party
A reformist Saudi prince has called for the creation of a political party in the ultra-conservative desert kingdom where parties are banned.
The initiative of Talal bin Abdul Aziz, father of billionaire businessman Prince Al-Walid, is "a reaction to the policy of 'exclusion' in the decision-making process," his office said in a statement posted on his website Monday.
Prince Talal, who is a half-brother of King Abdullah, said the creation of such a party as part of a "futuristic vision" of Saudi Arabia depended on a decision by the king.
The monarch "plays a vital role in achieving important reforms but the pace deserves to be stepped up", stressed the prince, who once served as finance minister but has been sidelined and no longer holds any official post.
He called for a separation between the executive, legislative and judiciary branches, and for an elected parliament in Saudi Arabia, which has an appointed all-male consultative council without legislative powers.
In August 2004, Prince Talal, who is now in his 70s, criticised Islamist radicals in Saudi Arabia and said the oil-rich kingdom was not a theocratic state despite applying sharia, or Islamic law.
He said a year later that the kingdom needed political reforms ahead of social and economic restructuring.