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Saudi crown prince in good health, on holiday – son

Saudi Arabia needs to promote younger princes -analysts.

October 28, 2010 9:22 by

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, who has spent much of the last year abroad for medical treatment and rest, is in good health and continuing his holiday, his son said on Wednesday.

His comments, in a country where the health of senior members of the ruling family is a closely guarded secret, follow speculation about the condition of the absent half-brother and heir to aged King Abdullah.

Political stability in the monarchy is of global concern. The Gulf Arab state controls more than a fifth of the world’s crude reserves, is a vital U.S. ally in the region, a major holder of dollar assets and home to the biggest Arab bourse.

“As you know he’s on a private holiday. Thank God he is in good health, he enjoys good health,” Prince Khaled bin Sultan, who is also assistant defence minister, said of his father, who is widely believed to be in his mid-80s.

King Abdullah is thought to be 86 or 87 and most of the senior royals are in their 70s and 80s.

Sultan, who is also defence minister and deputy prime minister of the top oil exporter and major U.S. ally, left Saudi Arabia for a holiday in Morocco in August.

His movements are watched closely by Gulf diplomats and officials after he spent much of last year in Morocco following unspecified treatment in the United States. Diplomats have said Sultan was treated for cancer.

Saudi Arabia has said he has been cured, but diplomats say he has been much less active in public and some of his duties seem to have been taken over by other princes.

Sultan’s last reported public meeting was on Oct. 14 when Kuwait’s ruler visited him in his palace in Agadir, according to state news agency SPA which showed then a smiling Sultan.

During his vacation, the Saudi cabinet decided on a salary increase for soldiers and officers, a traditional domain of Sultan, diplomats say.

Analysts say the ruling Al Saud family, which founded the kingdom with the help of clerics in 1932, needs to promote younger princes to dispel the image of gerontocracy.

So far only sons of state founder Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud can become kings of which about 20 are left, some in ill health.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Paul Taylor)

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