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Saudi King Salman names new crown prince

Saudi Arabia's king Salman sacked his younger half brother Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud as heir to the throne, state television has said. Muqrin was the last top official from the era of late King Abdullah.

King Salman's nephew and Interior Minister of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Nayefwas appointed crown prince on Wednesday by a royal decree, replacing Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud.

"We have decided to respond to his highness and what he had expressed about his desire to be relieved from the position of crown prince," said a statement from the royal court, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The statement added that king's half brother Muqrin will also be relieved of his duties as deputy prime minister of the oil-rich kingdom.

The latest shake-up at the top further strengthens the influence of King Salman's Sudayri branch of the royal family, which has waned during reign of late king Abdullah. Muqrin was the only remaining high-level dignitary who kept his position

since Abdullah passed away in January

.

King Salman also appointed his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as deputy crown prince, making him second in line for the throne. The king's son, in his early 30s, will retain his position as minister of defense.

Record-breaking diplomat

King Salman has also replaced Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal with the kingdom's ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir.

Faisal "asked to be relieved from his duties due to his health conditions," the royal decree said, adding that the former foreign minister was appointed as an advisor and a special envoy of King Salman.

Faisal was first named in 1975, making him the world's longest-serving foreign minister.

This is a second cabinet reshuffle since the 79-year-old king took over the throne some three months ago. It comes amid

serious tension with Iran

, Saudi Arabia's regional rival. Riyadh and Teheran have been trading accusations over involvement in the bloody Yemen conflict, with Saudi Arabia conducting airstrikes in the neighboring country.

dj/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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