*Haitham bin Tariq appointed successor
*New sultan promises to maintain good ties with all nations
Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said, one of the Middle East's longest-serving rulers who maintained the country's neutrality in a turbulent region, died on Friday and his cousin Haitham bin Tariq al-Said was named as his successor in a smooth transition.
With his death, the region loses a leader seen as the father of modern Oman, who balanced ties between two neighbours locked in a regional struggle, Saudi Arabia to the west and Iran to the north, as well as the United States.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said's coffin rides on a military vehicle during the funeral procession in Muscat
Newly sworn-in Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said carries the coffin of his cousin, the late Sultan Qaboos, during the funeral in Muscat
Newly sworn-in Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said receives condolences during the funeral of his cousin, the late Sultan Qaboos in Muscat
In a televised speech, Sultan Haitham promised to uphold Muscat's policy of peaceful coexistence with all nations while further developing Oman. "We will continue to assist in resolving disputes peacefully," he said.
Oman and other Gulf states declared three days of official mourning with flags at half-mast for the Western-backed Qaboos, 79, who ruled since taking over in 1970.
His funeral procession passed along Muscat's main road amid tight security as Omanis thronged the palm tree-lined route, some reaching out their hands and others taking pictures.
The casket, draped in the Omani flag, was carried into Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque where hundreds joined prayers inside. Haitham stood facing the casket, with the traditional curved dagger, or khanjar, strapped to his waist. Qaboos was later buried in a family cemetery.
Omanis took to social media to mourn the death of a ruler who had made regular tours of the country to speak to citizens, often driving his own vehicle in the convoys.
"The first words I heard from my weeping mother after news of the great Sultan Qaboos' death were: The father of orphans, of the poor, of the downtrodden, of all of us, has died," Twitter user Abdullah bin Hamad al-Harthi wrote.
State media did not give a cause of death. Qaboos had been unwell for years and underwent treatment in Belgium last month.
Qaboos had no children and had not publicly appointed a successor. A 1996 statute says the ruling family must choose a successor within three days of the throne becoming vacant.
A family council Saturday chose Haitham after opening a sealed envelope in which Qaboos had secretly written his recommendation in case the family could not agree, opting to follow his "wise" guidance, state media said.
Born in 1954, Haitham, who studied at Oxford, had served as minister of culture and as foreign ministry undersecretary. He was appointed in 2013 to chair Oman's development committee.
The major challenges facing Oman are strained state finances and high unemployment and a time of heightened tension between Iran and the United States and US ally Saudi Arabia.
Condolences poured in for the white-bearded Qaboos with Arab and Western leaders praising what they described as his wise rule. Former US President George W Bush said Qaboos had been a stable force in the Middle East.
Oman has friendly ties with Washington and Tehran and helped mediate secret US-Iran talks in 2013 that led two years later to the international nuclear pact which Washington quit in 2018.
Muscat did not take sides in a Gulf dispute that saw Riyadh and its allies impose a boycott on Qatar, or join a Saudi-led military coalition that intervened in Yemen.
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