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Tue 1 Nov 2011 08:19 AM

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Prince Salman to head Saudi defence, aviation

Post of defence and aviation minister is one of the most important in the Gulf kingdom

Prince Salman to head Saudi defence, aviation
Saudis Prince Salman bin Abdel Aziz helps carry the body of the late Crown Prince Sultan

Saudi
Arabia's Prince Salman is expected to be named as the defence and aviation
minister in the world's largest oil exporter, a Saudi source said on Monday.

Prince
Salman, the governor of Riyadh province, is to be appointed to the post after
the death of Crown Prince Sultan earlier in October.

The job
of defence and aviation minister has long been seen as one of the most
important in the conservative Islamic kingdom, which has used multi-billion
dollar arms purchases to cement its relations with key allies.

Prince
Salman, who was born in 1935, is one of the remaining sons of Saudi Arabia's
founder, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, and has been seen as the man next-in-line to
rule the kingdom after Crown Prince Nayef, who was made heir to King Abdullah
last week.

As
Riyadh Governor since 1962, he was tasked with the critical roles of overseeing
the Saudi capital's rapid development and arbitrating disputes between members
of the ruling al Saud family.

"He's
intelligent, political, in touch with the conservative base, but also quite
modern minded," said a former diplomat to Riyadh interviewed about Saudi
Arabia's succession process last week.

Prince
Salman is one of the seven sons born to Ibn Saud by his favourite wife Hassa
bint Ahmed al-Sudairi who represent the most powerful bloc within the Al Saud.

His full
brothers included the late King Fahd and the new crown prince and veteran
interior minister, Prince Nayef, and Prince Ahmed, a deputy interior minister.