On 1 January 1996 was responsible for managing the affairs of state after the king suffered a stroke from which failed to recover completely. Officially, the king recovered his duties in February of that year, but in practice continued to act as regent Abdullah and shared the cash with his brother to Sultan, the defense minister. Both got muted their differences and their rivalry in the interest of continuity of the royal family, although the first, as befits his reputation of devout Islamist, persisted in his criticisms of the financial and budgetary extravagances of some of the princes.
Reluctant to ostensibly pro-American policy of King Fahd, Abdullah called for a tempered nationalism and improving relations with all Arab-Muslim countries, while formulating some retrospective reproaches for not having managed to preserve neutrality in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988).
According to most of the analysis of the time, gave cautious reservations about the speed with which the monarch called for U.S. troops to be installed in Saudi territory after the invasion of Iraq in August Kuwayt by 1990, saying it was must be informed before the religious authorities or the presence of soldiers might be blasphemy in the holy places of Islam. However, consolidated its relations with Washington on the global strategy in the Middle East and stability in the oil market.
In March 2002, during a summit conference in Beirut, introduced the so-called Arab Peace Initiative, a plan that called for full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with capital in East Jerusalem. In return, he offered a peace treaty with Israel and its recognition by all Arab countries. Although the plan was rejected both by some Arab countries as Israel, the diplomatic offensive continued his visits to Egypt, Syria and Jordan, as the Saudi government described as "an attempt to revive the stalled peace process in Middle East promote inter-Arab unity and cooperation. "
In March 2002, during a summit conference in Beirut, called Initiative presented the King of Saudi Arabia While his siblings, Defense Minister Sultan and Crown Prince, and Nayef, the interior minister, are presented as ultra-conservative and not particularly religious, Abdullah is a pious and expresses some reformist inclinations. It has the support of the ulema, despite its good relations with the "infidel" U.S. For its limited attempts to reform and his fight against hardline Wahhabi sectarians (the most radical religious sect) and his followers more or less linked to Al-Qaeda, has the support of sectors of the intelligence and middle class, because they detest the sudairis reactionary group.
The fabulous family interests have prevailed over complaints of any kind, but given the advanced age of both the king and his brothers, there is no doubt that the kingdom live in a transitional period and shaken by two strong contradictions: The declining prosperity with its attendant social tensions and its international status as an ally of the West, but at the same time, protector of religion of the forces that seek to destroy it through terrorism.
Abdullah suffers from a speech defect is shown retracted and does not appear much in public. The columnists portray him as a lover of a pious life, austere and traditional, and the population believes that it is free of corruption that afflicts some of the family. It follows the Salafi interpretation of Islam, characterized by rigor, and sometimes the press reports that every week has a meeting with religious leaders to seek their advice. According to journalistic sources, has four wives, seven sons and fifteen daughters.