Qatar’s prime minister, for two decades the driving force behind the Gulf country’s rise to global prominence, will quit his posts of premier and foreign minister in an imminent cabinet reshuffle, al Jazeera reported on Wednesday.
Diplomats said earlier this month that Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, popularly known as HBJ, was likely to step down after Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani handed power to his son – a move announced on Tuesday.
Qatari-owned al Jazeera said the current minister of state for interior affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Naser al-Thani, had been chosen as the next prime minister.
It also named Khalid bin Atiyah, the current state minister for foreign affairs and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim’s close lieutenant, as the new foreign minister.
In Sheikh Hamad’s time as foreign minister, Qatar began hosting the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East but also cozied up to America’s foes Iran, Syria and Hamas in pursuit of leverage. The Afghan Taliban opened an office in Doha last week.
Named prime minister in 2007, he played a personal role in facilitating Qatar’s numerous efforts to resolve violent tensions, brokering talks in conflicts ranging from Lebanon to Yemen and from Darfur to the Palestinian territories.
What perhaps brought Sheikh Hamad most fame was his country’s public and robust support of the Arab Spring revolts.
Qatar lent significant support to rebels fighting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi by supplying them with weapons and fuel.
The state has also been Egypt’s top financial backer, signalling an intention to play a leading role in rebuilding the economy of the most populous Arab country after its 2011 uprising.
Qatar has been an early and ardent supporter of Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad from power.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was named emir following the abdication of his father on Tuesday in a transition rare in Gulf Arab countries, where heads of state normally rule for life.
Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas and key financier of Arab Spring uprisings.
There was no reference to Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim during Tuesday’s ceremonies and he was not seen in television coverage of the thousands who came to pledge allegiance to the new ruler.
Sheikh Tamim was due to deliver his first address to Qatari citizens on Wednesday evening at 1500 GMT.