New Saudi king will keep his brother's policies

2015-01-23 12:17
King Salman gestures during a session at the Shura Council. (Saudi press agency, AP)

King Salman gestures during a session at the Shura Council. (Saudi press agency, AP)

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Riyadh - Saudi Arabia's new king promised on Friday to continue the policies of his predecessors in a nationally televised speech, taking control of the kingdom after the death of its 90-year-old ruler.

King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud's comments come as the oil-rich Sunni kingdom began mourning King Abdullah, who died early Friday after nearly two decades in power.

"We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment," Salman said in the speech aired on the state-run Saudi 2 television station.

Salman also made an oblique reference to the chaos gripping the greater Middle East as ISIS now holds a third of both Iraq and Syria.

"The Arab and the Islamic nations are in dire need for solidarity and cohesion," the king said.

Salman, aged 79, had increasingly taken on the duties of the king over the past year as his ailing predecessor and half brother, Abdullah, became more incapacitated.

Salman had served as defence minister since 2011. That made him the head of the military as Saudi Arabia joined the United States and other Arab countries in carrying out airstrikes in Syria in 2014 against ISIS, the Sunni militant group that the kingdom began to see as a threat to its own stability.

He takes the helm at a time when the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom and oil powerhouse is trying to navigate social pressures from a burgeoning youth population — over half the population of 20 million is under 25 — seeking jobs and increasingly testing boundaries of speech on the Internet, where criticism of the royal family is rife.

Salman's health has been a question of concern. He suffered at least one stroke that has left him with limited movement on his left arm.

Read more on:    king abdullah  |  saudi arabia

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