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January 2015

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

King and Prime Minister Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud died on January 23, 2015. Crown Prince Salman bin Abdullah was proclaimed King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. The king's official title is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

The modern Saudi state was founded in 1932 by Abd Al-Aziz bin Abd al-Rahman Al Saud (Ibn Saud) after a 30-year campaign to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula. One of his male descendants rules the country today, as required by the country's 1992 Basic Law. King Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz ascended to the throne in 2005.

Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its soil for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. The continuing presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil after the liberation of Kuwait became a source of tension between the royal family and the public until all operational US troops left the country in 2003.

King Abdallah since 2005 has worked to incrementally modernize the Kingdom - driven by personal ideology and political pragmatism - through a series of social and economic initiatives, including expanding employment and social opportunities for women, attracting foreign investment, increasing the role of the private sector in the economy, and discouraging businesses from hiring foreign workers.

Saudi Arabia borders the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, and the north of Yemen. It has a harsh, dry desert climate, with great temperature extremes. The natural resources of the country include: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, and copper.

CIA World Factbook; Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 6/2014; 1/2015

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