Saudi King Asks Saud Bin Nayef to Run Oil-Rich Province

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah appointed Prince Saud bin Nayef as the governor of the kingdom’s Eastern Province, home to the world’s largest onshore oil field.

Former governor Mohammed bin Fahad resigned at his own request, the Saudi Press Agency reported today, citing a royal decree. Prince Saud is the older brother of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was named Interior Minister by King Abdullah in November. They are sons of late Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz.

Abqaiq, the world’s largest oil processing plant, the Ghawar oilfield and the kingdom’s Shiite minority are all located in the Eastern Province. Shiite protesters have clashed with security forces in the village of Awwamiya, al-Qatif and other eastern towns this year and last.

“The appointment signals a new phase in Riyadh’s approach to tackling the problem in the Eastern Province,” said Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai. “The appointment is part of the expansion of the Nayef family’s role in the future of Saudi Arabia’s internal security.”

The appointment comes as Abdullah seeks to keep Saudi Arabia free from the unrest that swept the Arab world last year, leading to civil war in Syria and continuing protests in Saudi neighbor Bahrain. The king’s medical condition has raised questions about the line of succession, after he underwent back surgery in November in Riyadh.

Prince Saud served as a special adviser and the chief of the Court of the Crown Prince, the news service said. He also served as the Saudi ambassador to Spain from 2003 until 2011.

King Abdullah appointed Prince Faisal bin Salman as the governor of Medina area, the Saudi Press Agency reported today.

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