Qatar's emir hands over power to 33-year-old son

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on Tuesday announced the transfer of power to his 33-year-old son, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani.  The 61-year-old emir announced the decision in a televised speech broadcast on Qatar state television today.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani.In a rare announcement, which was televised to the nation in the morning today, Sheikh Hamad said the decision was taken after weeks of consideration.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani has ruled the country for 18 years.

"As I address you today, I declare that I will hand over power to Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani; and I am fully certain that he is up to the responsibility, deserving the confidence, capable of shouldering the responsibility and fulfilling the mission," Qatari News Agency (QNA) quoted the emir as saying.

"I am fully certain that you will be his support as you have always been to me," the emir said.

"I had not desired the power for sake of power; nor endeavored to rule for personal motives; it has always been the nation's interests and that interest has dictated that we lead to a new chapter," he added.

Sheikh Hamad, who seized power from his father in a bloodless coup in 1995, with support of the armed forces and the cabinet as well as some neighboring states, did not give any explanation on the unprecedented transition even as rumours said Sheik Hamad is suffering from health problems.

The  al-Thani family has been in power in the small but oil-rich kingdom of Quatar for almost 150 years.

Tamim, a graduate of Britain's prestigious Sandhurst military academy, has worked to enhance his country's cooperation with the United States. The emirate also hosts a large US military base.

Qatar also recently allowed Afghan Taliban to open an office in the country to help the US open a new front.