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After training in the US, Tariki returned to Saudi Arabia and worked at the ministry of finance office in Dammam from May 1953 to December 1954. He served as an interpreter at the initial phase of his career at the ministry. In December 1954, Tariki was appointed director-general of petroleum and mineral affairs in the ministry of finance and national economy.
Tariki's work at the directorate involved processing the petroleum production statistics provided by Aramco, and analysis summaries were then presented to the Saudi royal family. In fact, Tariki was one of the earliest critics of Aramco, arguing that the US companies should consult more with Saudi officials in exploring, pumping and selling of oil. He called for the nationalization of Arab oil. To achieve this goal, he and Venezuela's mines minister Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso strongly supported the foundation of the OPEC and eventually became founding members of it in September 1960.
The ministry of petroleum and mineral resources was created in December 1960, and Tariki was appointed the first oil minister. Tariki joined Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz's camp, Free Princes Movement, in 1961, and they accused Crown Prince Faisal, later King Faisal, of corruption. Tariki became a powerful ally of the movement. He claimed on evidence that Kamal Adham, who was the brother-in-law of Prince Faisal, got 2% of the profits of the Arabian Oil Company that had been cofounded by Saudi Arabia and Japan.
Tariki was removed from office by Prince Faisal in 1962. He was succeeded by Ahmed Zaki Yamani as oil minister. Yamani sacked Tariki also from Aramco's board.
Following his dismissal, Tariki went to exile and settled in Beirut. In January 1963, he and Lebanese oil expert Nicholas Sarkis founded an oil consulting firm in Beirut. Tariki also launched a journal there, namely Arab Oil and Gas. He could visit Saudi Arabia only after the death of King Faisal in 1975. Later he settled in Cairo.
Tariki died of a heart attack on 7 September 1997 in Cairo at age 78. His body was taken to Saudi Arabia for burial.
^ abcdDuguid, Stephen (July 1970). "A Biographical Approach to the Study of Social Change in the Middle East: Abdullah Tariki as a New Man". International Journal of Middle East Studies. 1 (3): 195-220. doi:10.1017/s0020743800024168. JSTOR162327.