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Saudi Arabia - Government reshuffle was expected as its four-year term was up

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DUBAI (Reuters) – The Saudi king’s government reshuffle was expected because the cabinet must be replaced and reappointed every four years, the government said on Friday, giving a technocratic explanation to a move seen by critics as an attempt at crisis management.

The assertion was issued by the government communications office after the king elevated veteran government figures to key cabinet positions on Thursday, including installing a former finance minister to head the foreign ministry.

The position of national security adviser went to a Harvard-educated son of Saudi Arabia’s first intelligence chief who has also long been a fixture in the royal court.

Most other ministers remained in their roles and some allies of King Salman’s son and heir, Crown Prince Mohammed, 33, were also promoted.

Analysts said the moves were aimed at reversing the damage done to the image of the government by the murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

A statement by the communications office cited the Saudi official as saying the reshuffle reflected routine technocratic considerations and came at the end of the cabinet’s four-year term, as required by law.

“The reshuffle is designed to ensure that the Cabinet has the best combination of the experience and know-how to meet the needs of the Kingdom over the coming four years and strengthen our relations with friendly countries around the world,” the official was cited as saying in the statement.

(Reporting by Stephen Kalin, writing by Hesham Hajali and Katie Paul, editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean)

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