Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Head of state, prime minister: King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud
Saudi Arabia has been ruled since its foundation by the Al Saud dynasty. King Abdullah succeeded the late King Fahd, his half brother, in August 2005.
King Abdullah has kept a tight lid on pressure for reformAs crown prince, Abdullah had been the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia since the former king suffered a stroke in the mid-1990s.
He became heir to the throne in 1982, commanded the powerful National Guard and was considered to be the most influential figure in the country. He is a former mayor of Mecca. His son, Mutib, is deputy commander of the National Guard.
Abdullah is said to have forged alliances with other members of the ruling family to offset the influence of his seven half brothers. Known as the "Sudayri Seven", they are the most powerful alliance within the ruling family.
He is seen as being untainted by corruption - giving credibility to his drive to stamp it out - and to favour reforms which are balanced with a respect for Saudi traditions.
Regarded in the Arab world as a supporter of wider Arab interests, he has criticised US support for Israel and Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory.
At home, he has succeeded in keeping a tight lid on pressure for political reform, and has responded to small-scale protests in the kingdom by warning that threats to the nation's security and stability will not be tolerated.
King Abdullah is believed to have been born in 1924. He received a traditional religious education and is close to the Saudi tribal way of life, often spending periods of time in the desert.
King Abdullah has kept a tight lid on pressure for reform