RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – On Saturday Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Minister of Defense of the Wahhabi kingdom for nearly forty years, died at age 85 years, announced on state media which do not specify the cause of death.The announcement did not say where outside the kingdom Sultan died or elaborate on his illness but Saudi official circles in Riyadh said he passed away at a hospital in New York. According to a U.S. diplomatic cable released last year, he was being treated since 2009 for colon cancer.
Half-brother of King Abdullah, himself ailing Prince Sultan could be replaced as the successor to the throne by Prince Nayef, the powerful interior minister of the monarchy oil. Also half-brother of the king, Nayef, 78, was named by him the second vice-president of the Council of Ministers in 2009, interpreted as a sign placed on orbit because of the health status of Sultan.
Prince Nayef, whose appointment must be approved by the Board of allegiance, a body composed solely of members of the ruling family of Saud, in power since 1932, has shown in recent years by a campaign of repression against Islamic militants after the Sept. 11 attacks. He was ready, however, close ties with the Muslim clergy in the kingdom.
He who had thought to become crown prince in 1982, before seeing the King Fahd Abdallah choose his chagrin, was particularly defense minister during Operation Desert Storm to free Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. His son Khaled was the head of the Arab contingent in the allied offensive in 1991.
Fierce opponent of the Shiite regime in Iran, Prince Nayef had actively pushed to send troops to neighboring Bahrain in March to help quell the uprising of a mainly Shiite population against its Sunni leaders.
The funeral of Prince Sultan will be celebrated at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in Riyadh on Tuesday afternoon. He was the father of 32 children, including Bandar, former ambassador to the United States to head the National Security Council, and Khaled, No2 of the Ministry of Defence.