Winds of change.

Position:The emergence of a new breed of leaders in the Arab region - Cover Story

A new breed of political elite is taking over from the old guard who ruled the Middle East for decades. Educated in the West and in their thirties, these new Arab leaders will shape the policies of the Middle East in the 21st century.

The elevation of 37 year old Abdullah to the throne of Jordan in February, alerted the Arab nations to the mortality of their leaders. Among the Arabs there remains no rival to King Hussein's 47 year reign, which began when Harry Truman was US president. The Jordanian monarch's rule outlasted nine American presidents, nine British prime ministers, 28 Arab leaders, eight Israeli prime ministers, coups, wars, assasination attempts and, for a long time cancer's blight.

His death made the late King Hassan II of Morocco the longest serving ruler in the region. Like Hussein, Hassan had also survived assasination attempts and various plots. He too was widely respected for his peace efforts and for encouraging direct contact between Israel and her Arab neighbour.

King Hussein's last act of statesmanship surprised many as he entrusted his kingdom to his untested eldest son who has had little practise with political power, instead of to his more experienced and long designated heir Prince Hassan. However, with the passing of time, King Hussein's decision looks like an increasingly shrewd one; Abdullah's youth and Western viewpoint is what is now needed in the region to help project it into the next century.

Like Abdullah II, King Mohammed VI, is said to have surrounded himself with Western educated economists and technocrats, people who are more likely to aid him in solving Morocco's problems of unemployment, illiteracy and poverty.

Mohammed VI is a more modest and down to earth man than his father who belonged to a generation born to expect all the pomp and ceremony that accompanies being the head of a royal household. In contrast, when he was crown prince, Sidi Mohammed shunned many of the trappings of a regal lifestyle. He was frequently seen driving his car alone through the streets of Rabat and even stopping at red lights, an act not always considered compulsory by previous monarchs. When recognised he would frequently stop for a chat, listen to peoples opinions and appear interested.

Diplomats and officials who had dealings with both father and son say there are stark contrasts in their personalities. While Hassan revelled in wielding power during his 38 years as a wily monarch who constantly kept his enemies on...

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