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Saudi king makes son heir

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RIYADH Saudi Arabia's King Salman ousted his nephew as crown prince yesterday and installed his son Mohammed Salman, putting the 31-year-old (right) one step from the throne.

The young prince already wielded huge power before he was named heir, spearheading a sweeping economic and social reform programme for the ultra-conservative kingdom.

His rise comes at a crucial time for Saudi Arabia as it is locked in a battle for regional influence with arch rival Iran, bogged down in a controversial military intervention in neighbouring Yemen and at loggerheads with fellow US Gulf ally Qatar.

His youth is a novelty for a country that is used to ageing leaders - his father is 81 - and his rapid ascent through royal ranks over the past two years has symbolised the hopes of the kingdom's young population, more than half of which is under 25.

Footage aired on Saudi television channels showed Mr Mohammed Salman kissing the hand of his ousted cousin, Mr Mohammed Nayef, and kneeling in front of the older prince, who patted his shoulder to congratulate him.

"I am going to rest now. May God help you," the former crown prince said, to which his replacement replied: "May God help you. I will never do without your advice."

The new heir was the main champion of the kingdom's Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to bring social and economic change to the oil-dependent economy of a country where women's rights are among the most restricted in the world. - AFP

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