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Culture minister takes over following death of Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said

Haitham bin Tariq, a cousin, succeeds long-reigning monarch Qaboos, who has died at the age of 79
Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said salutes at the start of a military parade at a stadium in Muscat on the occasion of the sultanate's 40th National Day in November 2010(AFP)

A cousin of Qaboos bin Said al-Said, the former Sultan of Oman who died on Friday evening, has been sworn in as the country's new ruler according to government media.

The appointment of Haitham bin Tariq, Oman's culture minister and the 65-year-old cousin of late Sultan Qaboos, appeared to put to rest lingering uncertainty over the country's succession process.

"Haitham bin Tariq was sworn in as the new sultan of the country... after a meeting of the family which decided to appoint the one who was chosen by the sultan," the government said in a tweet.

Oman's Sultan Qaboos Bin Said dies at 79, state media says
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Qaboos, 79, had ruled the Gulf state since he took over in a bloodless coup against his father in 1970 with the help of the British.

A three-day mourning period has been declared, and flags are to be flown at half mast for 40 days, Reuters reported, citing state media. No cause of death has been confirmed, though Qaboos was reported to have received medical treatment in Belgium last month.

According to the Omani constitution, the royal family had three days to determine the successor and, if they failed to agree, the person chosen by Qaboos in a letter addressed to the family would be the successor.

The letter was quickly unsealed by the country's Defence Council in the presence of the Royal Family Council on Saturday morning, announcing Haitham bin Tariq as the heir, according to Omani state TV.

Most experts had expected the throne to go to Asad bin Tariq, another cousin, who was appointed deputy prime minister for international relations and cooperation affairs in 2017 in what was seen as a clear message of support.

Haitham, a sports enthusiast, held the position of undersecretary of the ministry of foreign affairs for political affairs before becoming the minister of heritage and culture in the mid-1990s. 

He was also the first head of Oman's football federation in the early 80s.

A number of world leaders offered their condolences for the death of Qaboos, who was seen as a figure of stability in the region.

"I am deeply saddened to learn about the passing away of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said," tweeted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"He was a visionary leader and statesman who transformed Oman into a modern and prosperous nation. He was a beacon of peace for our region and the world."

Former US President George W. Bush said Qaboos had been a stable force in the Middle East.

"He leaves a profound legacy, not only in Oman but across the region," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, lauding his commitment to peace.

Iran's top diplomat said Saturday Qaboos' death was a "loss for the region" and expressed hopes that relations between the two nations will grow under his successor.

"We offer our dear neighbour Oman our condolences... (and) we congratulate it for its selection of His Majesty Haitham bin Tariq as sultan, hoping our relations grow as they have before and that the future draws inspiration from the past," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted in Arabic.

The UAE also announced that flags would flown at half-mast and a three-day period of mourning was declared.