Saudi Arabia’s newly enthroned King Salman moved quickly Friday to name a future successor to the crown in his oil-rich kingdom, a significant appointment that puts the kingdom’s future squarely in the hands of a new generation.
King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud’s actions came as the Sunni-ruled kingdom mourned King Abdullah, who died early Friday at the age of 90 after nearly two decades in power.
A royal decree affirmed Crown Prince Muqrin as his immediate successor. After Muqrin, Salman named Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as deputy crown prince, making him second-in-line to the throne. Mohammed is the first grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, to be named as a future heir.
King Salman promised in a nationally televised speech to continue the policies of his predecessors. “We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” Salman said.
For more than six decades, power has passed among the sons of King Abdul-Aziz, from brother to brother, since his death in 1953. But ranks of that generation, largely in their 70s and 80s, are thinning.
Hundreds of grandsons
The decision to name Mohammed as deputy crown prince helps alleviate uncertainty over which of Abdul-Aziz’s hundreds of grandsons would ascend to the throne.
Salman on Friday also appointed his son, Prince Mohammed, as Defence Minister. The prince, in his 30s, was head of his father’s royal court when Salman was crown prince and is among his most-favoured sons.
In his first speech as king, Salman also made an oblique reference to the chaos gripping the greater Middle East as ISIS now holds a third of both Iraq and Syria.
“The Arab and the Islamic nations are in dire need of solidarity and cohesion,” the king said.
Salman, 79, had increasingly taken on the duties of the king over the past year as his ailing predecessor and half brother, Abdullah, became more incapacitated. Abdullah officially ascended to the throne in 2005, but had been de-facto ruler for years before that.
Abdullah is being buried Friday afternoon following a funeral at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in the capital, Riyadh. Muslim dignitaries from around the world began arriving in Riyadh for the funeral, under heavy guard.
State television aired images of the prayer ahead of his burial, which showed King Abdullah’s body shrouded in a simple beige cloth in line with Islamic tradition.
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