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Oman’s new sultan vows reforms

Agence France-Presse

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OMAN's new Sultan Haitham bin Tariq during his swearing in on Saturday. AFP

Oman’s new royal ruler has promised to follow in the footsteps of his influential predecessor, but also looks set to launch the nation on a new phase in its development, analysts say.

Haitham bin Tariq, the long-serving culture minister, was sworn in on Saturday shortly after modern Oman’s founding father was laid to rest.

Sultan Qaboos, who died on Friday at the age of 79, transformed the former Arabian Peninsula backwater into a modern nation with a staunch policy of neutrality and non-interference that won it respect in the region and beyond.

Haitham, a sports enthusiast, remains relatively unknown on the international stage but experts say that the 65-year-old who once served in Oman’s foreign ministry is cut from the same diplomatic cloth as his cousin Sultan Qaboos.

Tall and with a neatly trimmed beard, observers describe him as calm and cultured, and giving every sign of ensuring continuity in Oman’s role as a go-between among the Middle East’s warring powers.

In his first speech as sultan, Haitham pledged to follow the non-interference policy that made the sultanate a vital regional mediator under Sultan Qaboos who reigned for half a century.

“We will follow the path of the late sultan,” he said, dressed in the Omani royals’ signature coloured turban and gold-trimmed robes.

He expressed support for “our country’s foreign policy of peaceful living among nations and peoples… and not interfering in the internal affairs of others, respecting nations’ sovereignty and international cooperation”.

And he said that under his reign, Oman would continue to “promote peaceful solutions” to regional and global crises.

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