DUBAI - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah was expected to name Interior Minister Prince Nayef as his heir after a mourning period for Crown Prince Sultan ends on Thursday, formalizing a smooth succession in the world's biggest oil-producer.
Nayef has already run the kingdom on a daily basis for extended periods in recent years, during absences of both King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan, who died on Saturday.
Given the king's age and health problems, the new crown prince is likely to assume an even more active role immediately.
An Allegiance Council of the ruling family, set up by the king in 2006, is expected to approve a new crown prince after mourning for Sultan ends on Thursday. It can step in if anything befalls the ruler before an heir is named.
"There is an institutionalized mechanism in place," said Hossein Shobokshi, a Saudi columnist. "The Crown Prince had been deteriorating for some time so they haven't been caught by surprise. It should be extremely orderly.