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Oman begins first political transition in 50 years

Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said (R) helps carry the coffin of Sultan Qaboos. Photo: AFP via Getty

Oman's first political transition in half a century has been marked by visits from world leaders and tributes to Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who died on Friday.

Why it matters: Qaboos' cousin and successor, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, has said he'll maintain the foreign policy neutrality that's made Oman a key mediator, including between the U.S. and Iran.

  • Qaboos, the Middle East's longest-serving ruler, named Haitham as his successor in a letter opened after his death.
  • The choice signaled that Qaboos' priority was economic development and diversification, Neil Quilliam of Chatham House told Al Jazeera.
  • Qaboos, a charismatic absolute ruler, was viewed as a father figure by many in Oman. His blessing for Haitham should allow for a stable transition.

Flashback: "At the age of 29, with British support, [Qaboos] overthrew his father, Said bin Taimur, a reclusive and ultra-conservative ruler who banned a range of things, including listening to the radio or wearing sunglasses, and decided who could get married, be educated or leave the country," per the BBC.