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MOSCOW, January 23 /TASS/. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud has died, and the whole era in the life of the country has gone away with his death, according to Mikhail Gusman, TASS first deputy general director who was the first Russian journalist to interview the Saudi Arabian monarch.
“The interview with Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud for the Formula Vlasti (Formula of Power) program was scheduled for February 3, 2007. It was really the first interview, which the king agreed to give to a Russian journalist,” Gusman said.
“Despite the fact that the interview was supposed to have taken place on February 3, it was not held either on the 4th or the 5th of February…It was our ninth day in Saudi Arabia. Just a few days were left before President Vladimir Putin’s visit to that country and we understood that everything was hanging on a thread…Finally, the interview did take place two days prior to (Putin’s) visit. Later, we understood that it had been a kind of introduction to meeting the monarch,” Gusman explained, recalling how he and his colleagues had arrived in Jeddah, a city close to the holy city of Mecca.
“As you may know, non-Muslims are forbidden from entering the holy Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina. We and our colleagues from the Formula Vlasti program were on approaches to those cities. Our meeting (with King Abdullah) took place at the College Palace in Jeddah,” Gusman went on to say.
“His majesty was 82 at that time. He was in excellent physical and mental condition. The first things that caught my eye were his well-groomed beard, exclusive perfume and a smart gimlet gaze through the spectacles,” the Russian journalist recalled.
The interview lasted for about 60 minutes. “I remember his subtle humor. The king gave excellent comments on questions related both to foreign and domestic policy, noting interesting details. The monarch talked to me in a most democratic and charming manner,” Gusman added.
“I have had more than 300 interviews with the heads of state and government. Whenever I am asked which of the interviews I remember most, I always give a few names, including Jiang Zemin, Geidar Aliev and certainly Saudi King Abdullah. His personality of the Guardian of two Islamic holy sites and the personality of an absolute monarch — such people are growing rare in our century of education,” Gusman said.
“King Abdullah’s departure marked the end of a whole era. He was not just educated and enlightened but also a very wise and progressive person to a measure in which those characteristics can be applied to the absolute monarch of the Arabian Peninsula…Despite his twilight age, he was absolutely adequate in assessing the world around him. His departure, primarily from the political stage, is very hard to compensate,” the TASS first deputy general director said.
“King Abdullah’s brother, Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, has risen to power in Saudi Arabia…ushering in different times with different heroes,” Mikhail Gusman stressed.
By tradition, the guests and the anchorman of the Formula Vlasti program exchange gifts at the end. King Abdullah received a Russian samovar (boiling tank) from Mikhail Gusman. The monarch, in turn, presented the Russian journalist with an exquisite hand-made table with granite figurines.
Saudi Arabian King Abdullah who turned 90 last year died last night. Saudi Arabia’s state television reported that his successor Crown Prince Salman had ascended to the throne while Prince Muqrin had become the Crown Prince.