In a seven-minute speech on Qatar’s state television, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani told the world and his country he was handing over power to his son. The emir said it was time for a new generation to lead the emirate after his 18-year-rule. It is a rare step for a Gulf Arab ruler to voluntarily step down.
The emir did not mention when the change would take effect, though one official said the 33-year-old Prince Sheik Tamim’s succession would take immediate effect.
There was no mention of the future of Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim the prime minister and veteran politician who had also been expected to stand down.
Sheik Hamad also issued a decree extending the term of the advisory shura council. Its believed elections which were expected to be held later this year will now be postponed.
One Qatari political analyst said he did not expect any major changes in domestic or foreign policy in what is one of the richest countries in the world.
In a statement, British foreign secretary William Hague said he looked forward to even stronger ties to Qatar.