Prince Salman has been appointed the new crown prince of Saudi Arabia through a royal decree. His appointment comes shortly after the death of his predecessor, Prince Nayef.
Saudi King Abdullah issued a royal decree on Monday appointing his half-brother Prince Salman as heir apparent to the oil-rich kingdom's throne, according to state broadcaster Al-Ekhbariyah.
Prince Salman is to become the kingdom's deputy prime minister while keeping his post as defense minister. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy in which succession to the throne is passed along a line of some 20 brothers born to the kingdom's late founder, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud.
The appointment comes in the wake of former crown prince Nayef's death last week. The 79-year-old royal had been in Geneva shortly before his passing, where it was speculated that he was receiving medical treatment. Nayef had become the heir apparent in 2011 after the death of his predecessor, Sultan.
Nayef served as interior minister for 37 years and built a state security apparatus that led to the arrests of thousand of suspected Islamist militants. He was also known for being intolerant toward political dissent.
Salman's younger brother, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, is to succeed the late Nayef as interior minister.
Period of transition
Analysts regard 76-year-old Salman as largely supportive of social and economic reforms implemented by 89-year-old King Abdullah. The king has sought to broaden work and educational opportunities for women. He has also said women will be allowed to vote in municipal elections in 2015.
"The thing that Salman's going to have to do is try and get some influence over some of the religious establishment in the country," Michael Stephens, researcher at the Qatar-based Royal United Services Institute, told the news agency Reuters.
"He's going to have to start commenting on regional security issues as well as foreign policy initiatives," Stephens said.
A close ally of the United States, Saudi Arabia is currently at the center of efforts to check the perceived regional geopolitical ambitions of neighboring Iran.
The Saudis have practiced a realist policy toward the so-called Arab Spring uprisings. They have supported rebels in Syria in the hopes of neutralizing Iran's only regional ally, while opposing dissent in neighboring Gulf Arab nations.
slk/tm (AFP, Reuters)