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Saudi king fires interior minister seen as contender for throne

Special to WorldTribune.com

ABU DHABI — Saudi King Abdullah, concerned over another power
struggle, has replaced his new and increasingly powerful interior minister.

On Nov. 5, Abdullah issued a decree that dismissed Saudi Interior
Minister Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz, regarded as the latest contender for the
throne. Ahmed, appointed in June 2012, was replaced by his deputy, Prince
Mohammed Bin Nayef, who was sworn into office on Nov. 6.

Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef has been named by King Abdullah as minister of the interior, replacing Prince Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz.

“Prince Ahmed is relieved of his position as interior minister at his
own request and Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is appointed interior minister,” the decree said.

The dismissal led to the appointment of the first second generation
Saudi prince to a senior Cabinet position. Over the last two years, two
crown princes have died and the foreign minister was sidelined by illness.

Saudi sources said Abdullah was dismayed by increasing unrest in the
kingdom, particularly from the Shi’ite minority. They said the killing of
two Saudi Border Guards on Nov. 5 near the Yemeni border sparked the decision to dismiss Ahmed.

“It was a right decision taken by the king,” Interior Ministry
Undersecretary Ahmed Salim said.

But a Western intelligence source close to senior members of the Saudi
royal family said Abdullah had been alarmed by Ahmed’s ambitions. The source
said that within weeks of his appointment, Ahmed sought to position himself
as the next crown prince as well as undermine rivals through unauthorized
background checks.

“He was using the security agencies to examine the loyalty of royal
family members,” the source said. “The king waited until the right moment
when he could use the security situation as a pretext to fire him.”

The new interior minister, educated in the United States, has been
deemed the architect of Saudi Arabia’s counter-insurgency policy. The
53-year-old Mohammed, said to be close to Western intelligence agencies,
survived an Al Qaida assassination attempt in 2009.

“I would like to congratulate you for winning the king’s confidence,”
Prince Mohammed Bin Nasser, governor of the Jazan province, said in a cable
to the new interior minister.

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