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Crown Prince Sultan of Saudi Arabia Dead: Prince Nayef Likely Succesor?

Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud has died in a New York City hospital Saturday. The heir to the Saudi throne has reportedly been battling cancer. The question many are asking is who will be named the King’s successor.

The Saudi government, however, has not revealed the cause of death. The royal court released a statement that King Abdullah's half brother died “outside the kingdom following an illness.”

"With grief, King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz mourns the death of Sultan bin Abdel Aziz Al Saud, crown prince and his brother," the statement, which was released on the official Saudi Press Agency, read.

A member of Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council Saleh Al-Namla paid tribute to the Crown Prince, CNN has reported.

"Crown Prince Sultan lived his life in service of his country and also serving the Arab people and the people of Saudi Arabia," Al-Namla, said. "He was very much loved by the country."

According to the Interior Ministry, he will be buried Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011.

The death of Saudi Arabia’s heir to the throne has raised questions of succession. Many are wondering who will next rule the critical oil-producing country.

There are some that believe Prince Nayef is the most likely candidate. After Sultan bin Abdel fell ill, Prince Nayef was named second deputy prime minister by the king in 2009. Prince Nayef is also half-brother to King Abdullah.

The second deputy prime minister has traditionally been the position of successor to the throne.

The Crown Prince had undergone surgery for a concealed illness in NY in February 2009 and spent almost a year in the U.S. and at the palace recovering.

This is the first time that the line of succession is unclear. According to AP, the king could allow the next heir to be decided by the Allegiance Council. The council was created by King Abdullah to decide the succession. It is composed of his brothers and nephews.

Nayef would still be a top contender, but the door would be opened for other high-ranking members of the royal family to be considered.

There is no word on when the Allegiance Council will come to a decision on the next crown prince.

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