Saudi crown prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz dies

Dubai: Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, deputy premier and minister of defence and aviation, died today abroad, a statement from the Saudi Arabian Royal Court announced.

Crown Prince Sultan, who was around 86, had been in the United States for medical treatment since June. His death has thrown his brother Prince Nayef into line to succeed King Abdullah as leader of the key oil producer country. "With deep sorrow and sadness the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz mourns the death of his brother and his Crown Prince Sultan… who died at dawn this morning outside the kingdom following an illness," said the statement carried by state-run news agency SPA.

Saudi state television broadcast Quranic verses alongwith footage of the Kaaba in Mecca, Islam`s holiest site. The Saudi agency said funeral services will be held in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday after the arrival of Sultan`s body.

He was one of the Sudairi Seven, a powerful alliance of seven full brothers and their descendants within the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Late King Fahd was the eldest brother. A half brother of King Abdullah, Sultan had spent long periods abroad for health reasons. He was operated on in July but no information was released on his health conditions or ailment. However, the reports in recent years have indicated that Sultan was battling cancer.

He died while the 87-year-old king remains in hospital in Riyadh, a week after he had an operation on his back. The king has been pictured since then in apparently good health. The second in line to the succession, 78-year-old Prince Nayef, another half-brother of King Abdullah and one of the Sudairi Seven, becomes the crown prince.