Saudi Arabia's interior minister, 78-year-old Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, was named the new heir to the throne in a royal decree read out on state television Thursday.
Nayef succeeds prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who died last week in New York and was buried Tuesday in Riyadh.
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The decree called on King Abdullah's inner circle to recognise Nayef's new status. But there was no mention of who would take over the post of defence minister, left vacant by the death of Sultan.
Nayef, who has been interior minister for nearly four decades, led a crackdown on Al-Qaeda in the kingdom.
Seen as more conservative than the 87-year-old king, he likes to describe himself as a soldier under the command of the Saudi monarch.