Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah died early on Friday and the royal court said his brother Salman will succeed him.
King Salman named his half-brother Muqrin as his crown prince and heir, Reuters reported Friday.
Abdullah, thought to have been born in 1923, had ruled Saudi Arabia as king since 2006 but had run the country as de facto regent for a decade before that after his predecessor, King Fahd, suffered a debilitating stroke.
Abdullah played a key role in Saudi Arabia’s support for Egypt’s government after the military intervened in 2012 and drove his country’s support for Syria’s rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.
King Salman, thought to be 79, has been crown prince and defense minister since 2012. He was governor of Riyadh province for five decades before that.
Abdullah pushed cautious changes in the conservative Islamic kingdom including increased women’s rights and economic deregulation but made no moves towards democracy and was a hawk toward rival Iran.
King Salman has been part of the ruling clique of princes for decades and is thought likely to continue the main thrusts of Saudi strategic policy, including maintaining the alliance with the United States and working towards energy market stability.
During his five decades as Riyadh governor he was reputedly adept at managing the delicate balance of clerical, tribal and princely interests that determine Saudi policy while maintaining good relations with the West.
Saudi Arabia holds more than a fifth of the world’s crude oil and also exerts some influence over the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims through its guardianship of Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest sites.
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