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Qatar emir names new prime minister in shake-up

Qatar's top diplomat Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, seen here addressing the Conference on the Least Developed Countries last week, has been named his country's prime minister
— Doha (AFP)

Qatar's emir named his top diplomat as prime minister Tuesday and brought in a new interior minister in what observers called the completion of a changing of the guard in the wealthy Gulf state.

The ruler's office announced that Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani had accepted "the resignation" of prime minister and interior minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani.

Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani was named as the new head of government and was sworn-in within hours of the change, state media reported.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who headed the government security committee for last year's World Cup, became interior minister.

At 42, the new prime minister, an economist, is the same age as the emir and the new interior minister is also of the same generation.

Sheikh Khalifa had also served in the Lekhwiya internal security force.

The outgoing prime minister, 55, had only been in office since January 2020.

"He was the last real link in government to the father emir," said a diplomatic observer, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The current emir's father Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani abdicated in favour of his son in 2013. Sheikh Hamad had himself overthrown his father in a bloodless coup 18 years earlier.

The current emir has not introduced any major changes to the foreign policy of the resolutely pro-US Gulf state.

But Qatar's growing wealth built on its massive natural gas reserves has brought huge changes to the tiny state and its international profile.

The population has increased by a third to about three million in the past decade, mainly fuelled by a massive influx of migrant workers, whose treatment have come under an international spotlight.

Political parties are still banned but Qataris held a first direct election in 2021 for a consultative council.

Qatar organised last year's World Cup as part of a campaign to become an international sports hub and also sought a greater diplomatic and mediation role in geopolitical disputes.

As part of the latest changes, central bank governor Sheikh Bandar bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani became chairman of the Qatar Investment Authority, one of the world's biggest sovereign wealth funds.

The new prime minister had previously held the post.

Defence Minister Khalid bin Muhammad Al-Attiyah becomes deputy prime minister in the new government.