Riyadh: Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz has died, the palace announced on Saturday, leaving his brother and veteran Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz the likely successor to King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz.
The Crown Prince, age 80 according to government records, served as the defence minister for nearly five decades, but had been in the US since mid-June for medical treatment. He had surgery in July. Sultan spent long periods abroad for treatment of an undisclosed medical condition.Prince Sultan’s death puts the spotlight on an untested system of succession set up by King Abdullah in 2006 to ensure stability.
“The stability of Saudi Arabia is more important than ever,” said Turad Al Ameri, a political analyst. “All the countries around it are crumbling. The balance of power is changing in the Middle East,” he was quoted as saying.
In the past, who should become Crown Prince was determined in secret by the King. Under the new rules, the Allegiance Council representing each branch of the Al Saud family should vote to approve King Abdullah’s nominated heir.
That choice is most likely to be Prince Nayef, who was named second deputy prime minister in 2009, a job usually given to the third-in-line to the throne.
“The succession will be orderly,” said Asaad Al Shamlan, a professor of political science in Riyadh.
Dr Mohammad Al Zulfa, prominent analyst and former member of the Shura Council, told Gulf News that the death of any leader most often may eventually lead to substantial changes in policies.
“However, in case of Saudi Arabia, this is not going to happen,” he said, and added: “As per the spirit of the Basic Governing Law and the Law of the Allegiance Council, members of the royal family will, most probably, pledge their allegiance to Prince Nayef as the new Crown Prince.”
Three-day mourning in UAE
President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday mourned the death of Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz.
Shaikh Khalifa announced a three-day mourning period in the UAE and ordered that flags be flown at half-mast in government departments and institutions. The President extended his heartfelt condolences to King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz and the family of Saud, and asked Allah Almighty to rest Prince Sultan’s soul in eternal peace and grant his family the patience and solace.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, sent a cable to King Abdullah condoling the death of Prince Sultan.
General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, also sent a cable of condolences to the Saudi King, WAM reported.