Kuwait City: Kuwait’s new Amir Shaikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah on Sunday met senior US, Iranian and Gulf officials who separately paid their respects over the death of the Gulf Arab state’s former ruler.
Shaikh Nawaf assumed power after the death last Tuesday of his brother, Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad.
The late amir balanced ties between larger neighbours Saudi Arabia and Iran and kept a strong relationship with the United States, which led a coalition that ended Iraq’s 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait.
“He will be remembered as a great man and a special friend to the United States,” US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said in comments tweeted by the US Embassy during his visit.
Shaikh Nawaf also received Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iranian state media later carried a message by President Hassan Rouhani to the new emir: “I am confident that, as in the past, we will see a growing expansion of friendly and fraternal ties between the two countries.”
Shaikh Nawaf, 83, is expected to uphold the OPEC member state’s oil and foreign policy, which promoted regional detente.
He has yet to name a crown prince to help to guide state affairs at a time when low oil prices and COVID-19 have hit state finances against the backdrop of continued tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The amir has up to a year to name an heir, but analysts expect a decision in the coming weeks as senior al-Sabah dynasty members jostle for position. Parliament must approve the choice.
“An appointment would end this competition and send a signal of stability,” Dr Mohamed Alfili, a professor of constitutional law at Kuwait University, told Reuters.
Among mooted candidates are Shaikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad, a former defence minister; Shaikh Nasser al-Mohammad, a former premier; and Shaikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Jaber, deputy chief of the National Guard.
Another potential contender is Shaikh Mohammed Sabah al-Salem, a former foreign minister and the only candidate under discussion from the less powerful al-Salem family branch.
Kuwaiti sources say Meshal, the eldest among them, appears most likely to be named crown prince.
Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called Shaikh Meshal on Saturday to offer his condolences, state media reported.