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Saudi crown prince meets senior royals in Morocco

Saudi Crown Prince has been out of public view due to health problems.

October 7, 2010 8:37 by

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, who was for much of last year abroad for medical treatment and rest, has met senior Saudi royals in Morocco, state news agency SPA said on Wednesday.

It was the first report on meetings held by Sultan, who is also defence minister and deputy prime minister of the top oil exporter and major U.S. ally, for a month.

He had left Saudi Arabia for a holiday in Morocco in August.

Sultan’s movements and meetings 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, who is believed to be in his mid-eighties, was treated for cancer.

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

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

SPA said in a brief report Sultan met his brother Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz in Sultan’s palace in Agadir on Tuesday night, without giving details. It carried a photo showing a smiling Sultan.

Nayef, who is around 76, was promoted to second deputy prime minister last year, a move analysts say makes him effectively second-in-line to the throne.

SPA said the meeting was also attended, among other royals, by Riyadh governor Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, another brother of Sultan and key royal who diplomats say is seen as a contender for top jobs.

King Abdullah is around 86 and most senior royals are in their 70s and 80s. 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.

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 lynchpin of U.S. policy in the region, a major holder of dollar assets and home to the biggest Arab bourse.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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