Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud .
(photo credit: Reuters)
DUBAI - Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud died at dawn on Saturday, the country's royal court said in a statement carried by state media.
Sultan, who was thought to be aged about 86, had been heir to the throne of the world's top oil exporter since 2005 but was a central figure in Saudi decision making since becoming defense minister in 1962.
"With deep sorrow and sadness the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz mourns the death of his brother and his Crown Prince Sultan... who died at dawn this morning Saturday outside the kingdom following an illness," said the statement carried on state news agency SPA and state television.
Sultan's health had declined in recent years and he spent long periods
outside the kingdom for medical treatment. A 2009 US diplomatic cable
released by WikiLeaks described him as "to all intents and purposes
King Abdullah is now expected to call to session an untested "Allegiance
Council" to appoint his new heir, widely expected to be Prince Nayef,
the veteran interior minister.
Set up in 2006 soon after Abdullah became king, the Allegiance Council
is tasked with voting to approve the monarch's choice of crown prince or
nominating its own choice instead.