By Toby Prince
Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Arab world’s longest serving ruler with a reputation for quiet diplomacy, has died at the age of 79.
Reports early on Saturday said his cousin, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, was being sworn in as the new sultan, ending decades of speculation over who would succeed the popular ruler.
former British protectorate in the Arabian Peninsula, Oman has been ruled by Qaboos ever since a bloodless coup against his father in 1970 enacted with the help of Britain. He has travelled abroad for treatment for colon cancer at least twice since 2014 and had just returned to Muscat from hospital in Belgium.
Qaboos had no children and, following protocol, had not publicly appointed a successor. A 1996 statute says the ruling family must choose a successor or the name would come from a sealed envelope left by Qaboos. The royal family was hurriedly convened over Friday night to discuss the succession, reports said.
The Omani consitution says the sultan should be a member of the royal family as well as “Muslim, mature, rational and the legitimate son of Omani Muslim parents”.
There were believed to be more than 80 eligible candidates for the throne.