Middle East


Royal Rivalry

A war of words has erupted in the Egyptian media among members of Saudi Arabia's ruling family, offering glimpses of a power struggle within the regime and underscoring the tense state of Egyptian-Saudi relations, writes the Palestinian expatriate Al-Quds al-Arabs of London.

In June, Egyptian opposition newspapers ran a series of paid advertisements attacking Prince Talal ibn ahd al-Aziz, the maverick son of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, and a vocal supporter of political reform in Saudi Arabia. The ads, allegedly paid for by rival princes, constitute a rare public display of disunity within the ruling family, the paper said.

The mudslinging began during an interview on Egyptian television when Prince Talal voiced his support for Egypt's candidate for director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, thus breaking ranks with the Saudi government on its endorsement of fellow countryman Ghazi Algosaibi, the Saudi ambassador to Great Britain. Talal also called for greater democracy in Saudi Arabia and criticized the country's fiscal policies.

Following Talal's remarks. Cairo's opposition weekly Al-Araby ran a number of paid advertisements attacking the prince for his call to Arab intellectuals to visit Israel, and questioning the source of his son Walid's wealth. Other Egyptian papers ran similar ads. Coming to Talal's defense, Cairo's weekly Al-Usbou ran an editorial lashing out at what it described as a smear campaign against Talal, aimed at weakening his influence in the new regime after the succession to King Fahd.

Another ad, allegedly purchased by Algosaibi's supporters, called on Talal to curb his public criticisms and urged King Fahd to intervene to end the bickering. But the call for royal decorum may have come too late: According to Al-Quds al-Arabi, Talal is considering establishing his own newspaper in Egypt as a forum for his political views, and Walid is reportedly working on setting up his own pan-Arab satellite channel for similar purposes.