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Saudi Arabia's king replaces Energy Minister, appoints one of his sons

Saudi Arabias king replaces Energy Minister, appoints one of his sons

Dubai: Saudi Arabia's King Salman replaced the country's energy minister with one of his own sons Sunday, naming Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman to one of the most important positions in the country as oil prices remain below what is needed to keep up with government spending.

The new energy minister is an older half brother to 34-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and replaces Khalid al-Falih, who'd been in the role since 2016.

Prince Abdulaziz enters the job with a lifetime of experience in Saudi Arabia's energy sector and is seen as a safe and steady choice to lead the ministry, where he will oversee production of one of the world's largest oil exporters.

He has held senior roles in the energy ministry for more than three decades and most recently was minister of state for energy affairs.

Despite his now top role overseeing Saudi Arabia's energy portfolio, Prince Abdulaziz is not known to be close to Prince Mohammed, the king's most powerful son and heir to the throne.

His appointment marks the first time a Saudi prince from the ruling Al Saud heads the important energy ministry.

The move comes as Brent crude oil trades under USD 60 a barrel, well below the USD 80-USD 85 range that analysts say is needed to balance the Saudi budget.

Al-Falih's position, from where he oversaw some

60 per cent of the Saudi economy, had been diminished in recent days.

It signaled a possible rift with the crown prince over his management of various issues, including reportedly not advancing quickly enough Prince Mohammed's plan to sell shares in the state-owned oil company Aramco.

Al-Falih was removed just days ago from his post as board chairman of Aramco, a company that he once ran as chief executive.

Al-Falih's Cabinet portfolio was also curtailed last month when mining and industry were spun off from his purview into a new ministry, in an attempt to focus on more effectively attracting foreign direct investment into these sectors.

Al-Falih's diminishing role had led to reports that he was out of favour with Prince Mohammed, who is pushing to diversify the Saudi economy away from its dependence on oil revenue.

The crown prince has struggled to attract foreign investors, which analysts say is key to diversifying the economy and creating millions of jobs for young Saudis entering the workforce.

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