Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister Prince Nayef has been named second deputy premier, placing him just behind ailing Crown Prince Sultan in the political hierarchy, the state SPA news agency reported on Friday.
"His Royal Highness Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has been appointed second deputy prime minister," it said in a one-sentence statement.
Prince Nayef, about 75, was elevated to the job that has been vacant since his half-brother King Abdullah ascended the throne in 2005 and his full brother Sultan became first deputy premier.
The king, about 85 years old, is also the prime minister in the Saudi absolute monarchy.
The announcement came as Sultan, who is also minister of defence, was in New York convalescing from his second operation in five months for an unnamed illness.
Sultan, born in 1928, has been out of the country since November.
Although Nayef in recent weeks said Sulton was in good form and would soon come home, a date for his return has not been announced.
When the late King Fahd named Abdullah first deputy prime minister and Sultan second deputy premier in 1982, it was understood that that made Sultan second in line for succession to the throne.
However, when Abdullah became king in August 2005, he did not name a second deputy prime minister.
In 2006 he created the Allegiance Council, comprised of 35 princes charged with deciding together with the reigning king who will be crown prince.
Some analysts believe that with Prince Sultan abroad for medical treatment for so long, King Abdullah has been reticent to leave Saudi Arabia without another powerful official deputy to stand in.
Nayef's elevation to the new post could possibly clear the way for Abdullah to travel more.
He has not yet confirmed his attendance at the G20 summit of major economic powers in London on April 2. (AFP)For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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