Saudi Arabia was preparing to bury in Mecca Sunday evening Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, who died at the age of 79. Now the kingdom is expected to appoint a successor. The body of the Crown Prince, who died Saturday in Switzerland, was expected by midday in Mecca. Many dignitaries have already visited King Abdullah and offered condolences.
Several leaders of Arab states are to attend the funeral, including the Gulf monarchies and Turkish President Abdullah Gul. But non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Mecca, the holiest shrine of Islam, located in the west of the kingdom.
Prince Nayef, half-brother of King Abdullah, died of "heart problems" while in Switzerland. He stayed at the residence of his brother, former Crown Prince Sultan, who died in October 2011.
The second death of a Crown Prince in the space of eight months shows the aging of the Al Saud dynasty.
The Saudi Defense Minister, Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, 76, and brother of the deceased prince, appears as the most likely successor. Salman is considered popular among young members of the royal family and is considered relatively liberal, said experts.
The appointment of the new crown prince should go through the "Council of Allegiance" established in 2006 to institutionalize the process of transition.
Consists of 35 princes, it is chaired by the dean of Al-Saud, Prince Meshal bin Abdul Aziz, half-brother of King Abdullah.