In comments to Saudi television, Crown Prince Abdullah said that the King Abdul Aziz Centre for National Dialogue would build upon the success of an earlier national dialogue launched in June to address political and religious differences.

"The formation of the centre and the continuation of the dialogue under its sponsorship will...contribute in realising a channel for responsible expression which will effectively combat racism...and extremism," he said.

A four-day meeting in June, launched by the kingdom's de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah, brought together Sunnis and minority Shi'ites – who have long complained of second class  treatment in the strict Sunni Muslim kingdom – as well as government figures and a former dissident who was once jailed.

The meeting ended with a declaration acknowledging the diversity of Muslim thought in Saudi Arabia. It also sought more political participation in an absolute monarch and fair distribution of resources in the world's largest oil exporter.

Saudi Arabia, facing charges by Washington that it is not doing enough to tackle al-Qaeda, has stepped up its crackdown on Islamic militants in recent months. Police have arrested some 240 suspects since early May.

The kingdom blames al-Qaeda for the 12 May suicide bombings in Riyadh that killed 35 people.