WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama congratulated Saudi Arabia Monday on King Abdullah's selection of his half brother Prince Salman as the kingdom's new crown prince, saying that Washington looked forward to continued strong relations.
"As governor of Riyadh and then minister of defense, Crown Prince Salman has served his country with dedication and honor over the past five decades," Obama said in a statement.
"I had the pleasure of receiving him at the White House this April and knowing that he is a man of deep faith who is committed to improving the lives of the people of Saudi Arabia as well as dedicated to the security of the region.
"The United States looks forward to continuing our strong relationship with Crown Prince Salman in his new capacity as we deepen the longstanding partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia," he said.
Salman's appointment follows the death of Crown Prince Nayef on Saturday in Geneva of "cardiac problems."
Abdullah issued a royal decree earlier Monday appointing Salman "crown prince and deputy prime minister," while also keeping him on as defense minister.
In a simultaneous decree, the monarch promoted Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz to take over from Nayef as interior minister, the state news agency SPA said.
Salman, 76, became defense minister in October following the death of Sultan, the then crown prince and long-serving defense and aviation minister, while Nayef was named heir to the throne.