King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia led a burial ceremony on Sunday for his brother, Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, after sunset prayers in the Muslim holy city of Mecca where thousands of Saudis including royal family members and international envoys also gathered to offer their condolences.
According to Saudi press agency, several leaders of Arab states are to attend the funeral, including the Gulf monarchies and Turkish President Abdullah Gul. But non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Mecca, the holiest shrine of Islam.
Prince Nayef had been abroad on several occasions this year for medical reasons, including to Morocco, the United States, and Switzerland. The nature of his illness has not been made public, but he died of heart problems while in Geneva, Switzerland.
Prince Nayef , who served as the country`s deputy prime minister and interior minister in charge of internal security forces since 1975, built up his power in the kingdom though his fierce crackdown against al-Qaida's branch in the country following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks .
He also became the first official to allow a female team to join the London Olympics, Saudi TV report.
The Saudi Defense Minister, Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, 76, and brother of the deceased prince, appears as the most likely successor. Salman is considered popular among young members of the royal family and is considered relatively liberal, said experts.
The appointment of the new crown prince should go through the "Council of Allegiance" established in 2006 to institutionalize the process of transition. It consists of 35 princes, it is chaired by the dean of Al-Saud, Prince Meshal bin Abdul Aziz, half-brother of King Abdullah.
For his part, according to Arab news daily, U.S. Presidentreleased remarks following the death, stating that Nayef "dedicated himself to the security of Saudi Arabia as well as security throughout the region. ... Under his leadership, the United States and Saudi Arabia developed a strong and effective partnership in the fight against terrorism, one that has saved countless American and Saudi lives."