Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani announced in a live televised address to the nation on Tuesday that he will transfer power to his son Sheikh Tamim.
In a speech broadcast on Qatar state television, Sheikh Hamad, 62, said it was time for “a new generation to take over.” But he made no direct mention of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who had been widely expected to also step down.
“God knows that I didn't want power in itself and I didn't seek it for personal reason,” said the emir, who overthrew his father in a bloodless coup in 1995.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani will be the new emir of a gas-rich nation which has punched above its weight in recent years.
Sheikh Hamad, who used Qatar's immense gas wealth to drive its modernization and transform it into a major player in world diplomacy, came to power in a coup in which he overthrew his own father Sheikh Khalifa in June 1995.
A diplomat said that by freely stepping down the 61-year-old emir would “score a first in the Arab world,” where autocratic rulers held power uncontested for decades until the Arab Spring revolutions that toppled regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Tamim, born in 1980, is the second son of the emir and his second wife Sheikha Mozah and has been groomed for years to take the helm of the super-rich Western ally.
The British-educated Tamim is deputy commander of the armed forces and head of the National Olympic Committee. He also chairs the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee in charge of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Diplomats said that over the past three years the emir has increasingly transferred military and security responsibilities to Tamim, who like his father went to the British military academy Sandhurst.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has congratulated Qatar's new young emir Sheikh Tamim, state news agency SPA reported.
"We are happy to express to you in the name of the people and Saudi Arabia's government and in our name, our sincerest congratulations," King Abdullah said in a statement published by SPA.
"We are confident that you will continue the journey of your father ... and his efforts in serving the state of Qatar and its brotherly people as well as strengthening relations between the two nations," the king said in his message to Tamim.
Sheikh Tamim has played a major role in improving relations between Qatar and regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which had been strained until 2007 over a border dispute.
The United Arab Emirates Tuesday also congratulated Qatar's newly-crowned emir, voicing hope of stronger ties between the two Gulf states, the official WAM news agency reported.
Qatari emir's abdication speech
In the name of God, the most merciful.
My dear people, the sons of this nation,
I speak to you today as we prepare to enter a new era in the history of our nation. I wanted to address you first because you are the owners of this land of the pure as well as its protectors, the builders of its renaissance and the makers of its future.
This was the faith that filled my heart and lived in my soul as I grew up in the land of Qatar and started to hold responsibilities to serve this homeland and its people. God knows that I didn't want power for itself nor did I seek it for personal motivations, but it's the interest of the nation that required us to take us through a new era.
The time has come to open a new page in the journey of our nation that would have a new generation carry the responsibilities (armed) with their innovative ideas and active energies.
Our young people have proved in recent years that they are people of strength and resoluteness who comprehend the spirit of their time and fully understand its necessities while keeping up with what is new. Furthermore, they contribute with their ideas through the process of innovation.
And fit for this occasion is what Ali bin Abi Taleb said: “Teach your children the best of what you have been taught for they have been created for a time different than yours."
You, our sons and daughters, are the treasure of this nation, the builders of its present and bearers of its future. Since the beginning, we have been positive about you and on you we have laid our hope. You have proved with your high ambitions and through the achievements that you have offered to the nation, that you are qualified for leadership and trustworthy.
I hope I have succeeded in bearing responsibility in a way that first pleases God and in a way that lives up to people’s expectations. In areas where I have excelled, it is only because of God's guidance and in areas where I have done wrong, it is my own doing, and I hope people who bear responsibility after me learn from that.
I address you today to inform you that I will transfer power to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. I am fully confident that he is qualified for the responsibility and is trustworthy and able to carry the message forward. I am full of faith that you will be the best support for him as you supported me ... I am confident too that Tamim will put the interest of the nation and its people as his priority and that the happiness of the Qatari people will be his main goal at all times.
The future is ahead of you as you move into a new reign where a young leadership holds up the banner. (This leadership)puts the ambition of the coming generation as a priority and works relentlessly to make that happen with the help of God and the sons of this nation and armed with experience which they have gathered in governance, in running the affairs of this country and deep understanding of our area and the Arab world in particular.
Although I am confident that you are qualified for bearing this responsibility, I advise you to be fearful of God, be of knowledge and work hard. Knowledge should be the light the guides your path and assist you in the creating the best future for this nation.
It is knowledge that produces generations that are able to bear responsibility and it is knowledge that helps them take the right path. Hard and faithful work should be your habit in order to serve the nation. Steer away from complacency, lethargy and indolence, for the present and future generations are only built with effort and hard work of their people. (Nations) are only shielded against the ambitions of others and protected from dangers through sweat and sacrifice.
Although I am confident about your loyalty to your Arabic and Islamic heritage, I advise you to preserve our cultural values that stem from our religion as well as our Arab and human heritage. We believe that the Arab world is a single body, its single states are in good condition if they the rest of the state are. I advise you to stick to righteousness despite all changing conditions ... (Religious verses)
I speak to you today to thank the people of Qatar who were with me and supported me throughout this path. They were the best supporters in times of hardship and helped overcome challenges. My goal has always been for them to live in prosperity, stability and security.
My heart will always beat with the love of this land and its nation, for it is the first thing I laid my eye upon and it is where my imagination was triggered.
I also thank and appreciate all of those who worked closely with me. They were the best supporters in times of hardship and prosperity. I thank our armed forces and our army for the honourable role that they have carried out during my leadership I won't forget as long as I live the loyalty of the Qatari people, praying for God to preserve Qatar and maintain its security and stability and lay His grace upon its people.
Peace be upon you
(With AFP and Reuters)