Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman elevated to Crown Prince- SPA

Qatar's emir congratulated Saudi Arabia's newly-appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman yesterday and called for "brotherly relations" between the two countries, now locked in a bitter diplomatic dispute.

Mohammed's appointment as heir to the throne completes a gradual stripping of power from the ousted crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, who has also been fired as deputy prime minister and interior minister.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef was appointed on Wednesday to replace Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was stripped of his positions and removed as second in line to the throne of S Arabia.

Trump is reported to have congratulated the new crown prince and expressed hopes for stronger ties between both countries, according to Saudi media.

After Prince Mohammed bin Salman's promotion was announced, Saudi Arabia's stock market surged more than 3 per cent in early trade.

"The more that time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE", Nauert said.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, then the deputy crown prince, was one of the first foreign officials to visit Trump as president, joining him and aides for a March 14 luncheon at the White House.

It said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a counter-terrorism chief admired in Washington for putting down an al-Qaida campaign of bombings in 2003-06, was relieved of all positions.

Its leadership was critical of comments by Prince Mohammed last month that the "battle" should be taken into Iran.

An ambitious social and economic reform programme of Mohammed entitled Vision 2030, crown prince vowed to diversify the economy by selling part of the state-owned oil company.

According to a former U.S. government expert on Middle East affairs, the most risky aspect of the Trump administration was for the United States to be cajoled into the Muslim Sunni-Shi'ite rift going on across the Middle East.

Michael Hanna, senior fellow at Washington-based think-tank The Century Foundation, wrote on Twitter that Mohammed bin Nayef's removal also represented "the loss of a long-standing, trusted US (counter-terrorism) partner".

"The president and the crown prince committed to close cooperation to advance our shared goals of security, stability, and prosperity across the Middle East and beyond", the White House said in a statement about their telephone talks.

The king accompanied his son's elevation with measures to woo the many Saudis who work for the government, either as civilian or military personnel.

On Wednesday, a well-known Saudi online activist, known on Twitter as @mujtahidd, predicted that King Salman would abdicate in favor of his son.

  • Joanne Flowers