* A brother of Saudi king objects to deputy PM nomination
* He says nomination may make interior minister crown prince
* Prince Talal urges king to clarify his appointment
By Souhail Karam
RIYADH, March 28 (Reuters) - A brother of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has started a rare public debate over the succession by questioning the appointment of the kingdom's interior minister as second deputy prime minister -- a position that would normally place him second in line to the throne.
The statement, by Prince Talal bin Abdul-Aziz, came after the Saudi royal court announced on Friday the appointment of Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz as second deputy prime minister, a promotion that means he will run the kingdom when the monarch and crown prince are away.
The role would normally go to First Deputy Prime Minister Crown Prince Sultan, but he is convalescing in the United States after surgery earlier this year.
Prince Talal said the monarch needs to make sure the appointment served purely an "administrative purpose".
"I call on the royal court to clarify what is meant by this nomination and that it does not mean that he (Prince Nayef) will become crown prince," Prince Talal said in a faxed statement sent to Reuters.
"The latest nomination of the second deputy prime minister will give the impression that he will automatically become crown prince," said Prince Talal, who is also the father of billionaire businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
The statement was authenticated by a personal assistant of Prince Talal, who like both King Abdullah and Prince Nayef is a son of the kingdom's founder, the late King Abdul-Aziz al-Saud.
A CONSERVATIVE FORCE
Prince Talal said the appointment of Nayef as crown prince should be decided by the Allegiance Council, made up of the most prominent members of the al-Saud family who would vote to appoint future crown princes.
The decision to set up the council in 2006 aimed at replacing an even more opaque previous policy consisting of naming "the eldest and most able" son of late King Abdul-Aziz to the post of Crown Prince.
Prince Nayef, believed to be 75, is perceived as one of the most conservative forces in the kingdom and an opponent of reforms that may reduce the clout of both the monarchy and the religious establishment in the kingdom, the world's leading oil exporter.
He told reporters earlier this week that he does not see a need either for women to be members of a quasi-parliament or elections to its membership.
Prince Talal, on the other hand, has long been one of the most vocal supporters of reforms among the ruling al-Saud family.
An Interior Ministry spokesman declined to comment on the statement saying that only the royal court was eligible to comment on such issues. The court's public relations officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Western diplomats and analysts said Prince Nayef's appointment improve his chances of becoming the next crown prince.
"There is no other explanation to this appointment. Prince Talal's statement reflects this," said Khalid al-Dakhil, a political science lecturer at King Saud University.
A diplomat added: "It is fair to talk about the Allegiance Council if there is a vacancy. Prince Nayef's appointment suggests the inevitability that he is to become crown prince".
A Saudi analyst close to official circles said Prince Nayef's appointment followed discussions among the top members of the royal family, but could not say if Prince Talal took part in these talks.
"Everything is possible behind those closed doors, they have agreed. The law allows the king to name one deputy or several deputies or remove them ... The allegiance council is not needed now since the position of crown prince is not vacant".
The appointment of Prince Nayef, which a royal decree said was "made in the interest of the public good", will put the interior minister in charge of running Saudia Arabia during an expected two-week absence by King Abdullah.
The monarch is expected to attend an Arab summit next week in Qatar before heading to London for a G20 summit early in April.
Diplomats and analysts say Prince Talal's push for reforms is shared by only a minority of several thousands of Saudi princes. "He has a history," one diplomat said.
Saudi authorities revoked in the early 1960s Prince Talal's passport when he sought to press for a constitutional monarchy and allied himself to late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, then an arch-foe of the Saudi monarchy.
Prince Talal later toned down his rhetoric to be able to return to the kingdom.
Over the more than 30 years he has spent as Interior Minister, Prince Nayef has had to deal with a bloody siege at the Grand Mosque of Mecca in 1979 and a wave of bombings led by al-Qaeda sympathisers and aimed at toppling the monarchy.
(Editing by Samia Nakhoul)
Al Qaeda behind Libyan plot to murder Saudi prince
RIYADH: A leading Saudi-owned newspaper reported Saturday that four Libyan-recruited would-be assassins of Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz were members of Al Qaeda, the network blamed for the terror that has hit Saudi Arabia in the past 13 months.
Saudi officials have not commented on the alleged plot to murder Abdullah or spoken of retaliatory measures, but Asharq Al-Awsat’s claim came as other Saudi newspapers assailed Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi for the second day in a row.
The daily Okaz also sought to link Libya to the wave of bombings and shootings which began in Saudi Arabia in May 2003, quoting unspecified sources as “not ruling out the involvement of Libyan intelligence in some of the recent bombings and killings.”
The New York Times reported on Thursday that two people involved in a plot to fire rockets at Abdullah’s motorcade had been detained in the United States and Saudi Arabia and that the plot was being investigated by Washington, Riyadh and London.
The two were named as Abdurahman Almoudi, an American arrested in October for violating a US ban on travel to Libya, and Colonel Mohammed Ismael, a Libyan intelligence officer captured by Egyptian police in November after he fled Saudi Arabia where he tried to pay four Saudi militants. Libya has denied the allegations.
Reporting from Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat said Ismael fled from the Rea Sea port city to Cairo last November after he saw Saudi security forces besieging a hotel in nearby Mecca in which the four Saudis affiliated to Al Qaeda, and who were supposed to carry out the assassination, were staying.
The four were to use shoulder-held or armor-piercing missiles in the assassination, it said, adding that the hotel was located opposite the palace where Abdullah was due to stay.
The plot was uncovered thanks to the measures Saudi Arabia has introduced to monitor the flow of money into the country, the paper quoted reliable sources as saying in a reference to the tighter controls meant to prevent terror financing which began after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
An employee in a branch of Al-Rajhi Bank in Mecca became suspicious of a one-million-dollar transfer to Ismael, who said it was meant to cover the expenses of Gaddafi ‘s wife during a pilgrimage trip to the Muslim holy city.
Saudi authorities put Ismael under surveillance and eventually raided a hotel apartment where the four Saudi Al Qaeda recruits were staying and arrested them, prompting the Libyan intelligence officer to flee to Egypt.
Security authorities immediately contacted their Egyptian counterparts, who arrested Ismael as soon as he landed in Cairo and put him on a plane back to Saudi Arabia, the paper said.
The daily Al-Watan gave a slightly different account of the run-up to Ismael’s flight to Egypt but named a second Libyan security agent — Abdul Fattah al-Ghosh — who accompanied him and was sent back to Saudi Arabia. afp
[-] Text [+] | Subscribe | Email | Print | XML RSS
Saudi crown prince to convalesce in Morocco -SPA
29 Apr 2009 09:39:17 GMT
RIYADH, April 29 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, who had surgery in New York in February, will spend time in Morocco before returning home, the official news agency SPA reported late on Tuesday.
Prince Sultan, deputy leader of the world's biggest oil exporter, will leave the United States on Wednesday to convalesce in Morocco, SPA quoted one of his sons Prince Fahd bin Sultan as saying.
"He then will return soon to the homeland, God willing, to perform his functions and duties for the service of religion and the nation," said Prince Fahd, governor of Tabuk region.
Prince Turki bin Sultan, another son of the prince and an assistant information minister, said in remarks carried by SPA earlier on Tuesday his father would return to Saudi Arabia soon.
Saudi media at the time described the treatment undertaken by Prince Sultan, who is thought to be 84, as successful but did not say what he was treated for.
Prince Sultan left the kingdom, an absolute monarchy closely allied to Washington, in November for medical tests in the United States, Saudi media said. He then returned to Morocco for a prescribed convalescence before flying back to New York for the surgery in February.
In March, King Abdullah appointed Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz as second deputy prime minister, a promotion that would normally place him second in line to the throne after Sultan. The position means he will run the kingdom when both the monarch and crown prince are away.
Al Qaeda launched a failed campaign of violence to destabilise the Gulf Arab country from 2003 to 2006.
Prince Sultan had an intestinal cyst removed in Saudi Arabia in 2005 and he visited the Swiss city of Geneva in April 2008 for what were described as routine tests. (Reporting by Souhail Karam; Editing by Andrew Hammond and Dominic Evans)