Oman announced Saturday culture minister Haitham bin Tariq Al Said as the new ruler of the Gulf Arab country, hours after Muscat announced death of longtime ruler Sultan Qaboos at the age of 79.
Qaboos, the Middle East’s longest-ruling monarch, seized power in a 1970 palace coup. He was known internationally for his diplomatic balancing in the Persian Gulf. Under his leadership, Oman often served as a facilitator of talks between adversaries, including Iran and the U.S.
Thousands gathered at the Sultan Qaboos Mosque where funeral prayers were held before noon Saturday.
Oman state TV said authorities had opened a letter by Sultan Qaboos bin Said naming his successor, without elaborating. State TV then announced shortly after that Sultan Qaboos’ cousin, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, is the country’s ruling sultan, which suggests he was Qaboos’ choice.
Oman’s Defense Council had earlier said it met with the Royal Family Council, inviting its members to select a successor.
According to Oman’s succession laws, if the family council cannot agree on a successor the country’s authorities are to unseal a letter written by Sultan Qaboos containing his choice for successor from among his family. Sultan Qaboos had no children.