Reformist Saudi prince shakes ultraconservative country
RIYADH, Apr 6: Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman, who is set to visit France next week, has shaken up the ultraconservative oil superpower with economic, social and religious reforms since becoming crown prince.
The 32-year-old de facto ruler has overseen the most fundamental transformation in the modern history of the Gulf nation and sidelined all rivals after emerging as first-in-line last June.
Known by his initials MBS, the prince has pledged a "moderate" Saudi Arabia as he seeks to get international investors on board with his grandiose vision to overhaul the kingdom's oil-reliant economy.
He has taken on the powerful clerics who long dominated Saudi life and struck out at the nation's coddled elite with a dramatic purge of royals, ministers and business figures that saw hundreds detained in a probe over graft worth $100 billion.
"We want to live a normal life. A life in which our religion translates to tolerance, to our traditions of kindness," he told international business leaders at a conference in Riyadh last year.
"Seventy percent of the Saudi population is under 30, and honestly we will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today and at once."
On the international stage, he has ratcheted up tensions in the Middle East by plunging the usually staid kingdom into the quagmire of regional rivalries. -AFP