Saudi King Salman cements power with appointments

Saudi King Salman cements power with appointments
An image grab taken from Saudi state TV on January 23, 2015 shows Saudi Arabia's new King Salman in his first public address, in the Saudi capital Riyadh. King Salman asked God to support him in his "great responsibility" but pledged no change in the kingdom's direction.

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's new King Salman on Friday named one of his sons as defence minister and his nephew as deputy crown prince, cementing power for his branch of the royal family.

The appointments of Prince Mohammed bin Salman as defence chief and Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as second in line to the throne coincided with Salman's first public remarks as king.

"I pray to God to give me support," Salman said, wearing a dark, gold-fringed cape as he read from a binder in a wood-panelled room.

"We will remain with God's strength attached to the straight path that this state has walked since its establishment by King Abdul Aziz bin Saud, and by his sons after him," Salman said in a televised speech.

Prince Moqren, previously deputy crown prince, was named as his heir.

As interior minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef served in a post also held by his father, the late Nayef bin Abdulaziz.

The younger Nayef was in charge of a crackdown on Al-Qaeda following a wave of deadly attacks in the Gulf state between 2003 and 2007.

His appointment helps to solidify control by the new king's Sudayri branch of the royal family, named after Hissa bint Ahmad al-Sudayri, the mother of Salman and his late brother Nayef.

Their influence had waned under King Abdullah, who died early Friday at the age of about 90.

Despite the new appointments, Salman pledged no change in the kingdom's direction, while calling for Muslim unity.

"The thing the Islamic ummah (nation) most needs is its unity and solidarity and we will continue in this country to undertake all that can achieve unity... and the defence of the causes of our nation," the king said.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Salman's comments come as war ravages parts of the Arab world including Libya, Syria and Iraq.

Saudi Arabia, along with its Gulf neighbours, has joined a US-led air campaign against the Islamic State extremist group which has seized parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

Under Saudi law, the monarch must be a son or grandson of Abdul Aziz, who died in 1953.

Since then the throne has systematically passed from one of his sons to another but many are now dead or aged.

In March 2014, King Abdullah named Moqren, the youngest of the 45 sons of Abdul Aziz, to the new position of deputy crown prince in the aim of smoothing succession hurdles.

Along with his position as defence minister, Salman's son Mohammed was also named head of the royal court and special advisor to the monarch, according to a royal decree.

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