King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia yesterday named his half-brother Salman bin Abdulaziz heir to the throne after the death on Saturday of Crown Prince Nayef.
A council of the multitudinous Saudi royal family named the kingdom's 76-year old Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, who was governor of Riyadh for nearly 50 years until his recent promotion to Saudi Arabia's defense minister .
An imposing figure, Salman controls one of the Arab world's largest media groups.. His son Faisal is the chairman of the Riyadh-based Saudi Research and Marketing Group. The group owns the London-based pan-Arab Asharq Al Awsat newspaper and the Jeddah-based Arab News English language paper.
His son, Sultan Bin Salman, flew into space as a payload specialist on the US shuttle Discovery in 1985.
He believes that democracy is ill-suited to the conservative kingdom and advocates a cautious approach to social and cultural reform, according to a 2007 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.
Salman’s links to Saudi religious charities brought him into controversy as one of the defendants in a lawsuit by insurance companies that accused Saudi Arabia of funneling money to al-Qaida. A U.S. appeals court in New York had ruled in 2008 that the Saudi royal family and other defendants enjoy immunity from such lawsuits.
Prince Salman becomes King Abdullah's third heir after the deaths of two older brothers: Crown Prince Sultan last October and Crown Prince Nayef, the interior minister, on Saturday.