RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah appointed his son as governor of Riyadh Province on Wednesday in a move that strengthens his branch of the ruling dynasty as it approaches a difficult decision over how to transfer power to the next generation.
Prince Turki bin Abdullah's elevation to one of the most important positions held by ruling family members in the absolute monarchy comes months after another son of the king, Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah, was made governor of Mecca Province.
Moves in the ruling family are closely watched at home and abroad for clues on who will rule the world's top oil exporter, a country which also a huge influence over Muslims through its guardianship of Islam's holiest sites.
The Saudi line of succession does not pass directly from father to son, as in European monarchies, but has moved along a line of brothers born to the country's founder King Abdulaziz who died in 1954.
As that line nears its end, the al-Saud dynasty is grappling with how to move the succession down to the next generation of the family.
King Abdullah, who is over 90, has made a series of changes and appointments over the past two years that have consolidated the position of his allies in the family.