DUBAI - The funeral of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Sultan on Tuesday sets the stage for an eventual generational shift in the aging leadership of the world's top oil exporter, even if King Abdullah picks 77-year-old Prince Nayef to succeed him.
At stake is the direction of a US ally attempting to reconcile its conservative traditions with the needs of a modern economy and a young, increasingly outward-looking population.
The body of Sultan, who died of colon cancer in New York on Saturday, was flown back to Riyadh on Monday. Hundreds of men, including Saudi King Abdullah, gathered on the airport runway to watch as the coffin was lowered into an ambulance and driven away.
Sultan's funeral will be held before the afternoon prayer in the conservative Islamic state and his body will then be taken away for burial.