By Jo Anne Bladd
Influx of world leaders expected to attend the funeral of the former heir to King Abdullah
Saudi Arabia is preparing for the funeral of Crown Prince
Sultan as attention inside the kingdom and abroad turns to his successor and
the likely appointment of a new defence minister.
The kingdom's media continues to mourn Sultan, who was heir
to King Abdullah for six years and had served as defence and aviation minister
since 1962, after his death in New York on Saturday. An influx of world leaders
is expected for Tuesday's funeral.
Veteran Interior Minister Prince Nayef, seen as more
conservative than either Abdullah or Sultan, is widely tipped to be named in
the coming days as the next in line to rule the world's top oil exporter.
Another key decision that might be made in coming days is
the appointment of a new defence minister. Saudi Arabia has used multi-billion
dollar arms purchases to cement its relations with key Western allies, making
the defence minister a crucial figure in formulating both foreign and security
Abdullah will probably choose to summon an Allegiance
Council of the ruling al-Saud family, a body he created in 2006 but which will
not technically assume its duties until after his death, to approve his choice
of crown prince.
Prince Nayef has already assumed the day-to-day running of
the kingdom during absences of both Abdullah and Sultan and has long been seen
as next in line for the succession.
Despite his reputation as hawkish on foreign policy and
opposed to some domestic political reforms, analysts say he might show a more
liberal side as king.
Royal succession does not move directly from monarch to
offspring, but has passed down a line of brothers born to the kingdom's founder
King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud who died in 1953.
Whatever appointments he makes, King Abdullah will have to
maintain a delicate balance of power in a royal family that has thousands of
members, dozens of branches and dominates Saudi Arabia's government, armed
forces and business.
The changes could prompt the monarch to undertake the first
major government reshuffle of his reign, although some analysts say he might
prefer to wait to avoid any perception that changes were being made under