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Qatar’s ruler may hand power to son

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Qatar’s ruler said Monday that he plans to transfer power to his 33-year-old son, the nation’s crown prince, a report said, in what would mark a rare transition of authority in the Persian Gulf, where most leaders remain until death.

The report by Qatar-based Al Jazeera gave no other details, including whether health issues of the 61-year emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, played a role in the decision. The network was founded by Qatar’s government and closely reflects its views on internal issues.

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Such a transfer will jolt the ruling fraternity across the Western-backed Arab states by ushering a new generation into leadership ranks dominated by old guard figures, such as the 90-year-old King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia.

It also appears to signal a proactive response to the Arab Spring upheavals, and their emphasis on giving voice to the region’s youth.

Under Hamad, Qatar, a small nation with a population of around 17 million has used its vast energy riches to catapult itself into one of the world’s most politically ambitious countries.

It has served as a powerful player in the Middle East, providing key support for rebels in Libya last year and now in Syria and for the Muslim Brotherhood, which rose to political dominance in Egypt.

Qatar has made no official statements, including a response to the speculation that the emir is ailing.

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