- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

If current and former world leaders chose the next king of Saudi Arabia, Prince Bandar bin Sultan undoubtedly would win.

Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela count themselves among legions of fans who have worked with Prince Bandar, and each wrote an introduction to a new biography, “The Prince: The Secret Story of the World’s Most Intriguing Royal.” Neither made it in person to Tuesday’s glitzy book-launching in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress. Prince Bandar also was a no-show, said to be busy at his new post as national security chief in Saudi Arabia since departing Washington after 25 years as his nation’s ambassador.

The event did feature Mrs. Thatcher, however, on a flat-screen television in one corner of the foyer, praising the prince over and over on a video loop. Mr. Mandela sent a letter praising the book as an “overdue tribute.” But will the prince be the first of his generation to succeed to the throne? Unlikely, said author William Simpson, a retired hedge-fund manager and, long before that, a classmate of Prince Bandar’s at Britain’s Royal Air Force College.

“If you look at the lineage, there’s not a chance in hell,” Mr. Simpson said, because the prince’s mother was a “slave girl” whom his father never married.

That would disqualify Prince Bandar, despite his powerful father, Crown Prince Sultan. (King Abdul Aziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, had 43 sons, of whom five have held the throne.)

Nevertheless, Prince Bandar exercises great influence within the Saudi royal family. “As secretary-general of the National Security Council, he reports directly to the king,” Mr. Simpson explained.

If any diplomats from the Saudi Embassy showed up, they kept a low profile — but the hall was full of lobbyists for the Saudi government, including top officials of Qorvis Communications, which was hired after September 11 to help with the kingdom’s PR woes.

Former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen made a brief appearance in a room notably lacking in boldfaced names. So did singer and Washington native Roberta Flack, who once called Prince Bandar “a gorgeous hunk of a man.”

Willis Witter

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