TYPE: CN ))
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is stepping down and handing power to his son, the country's 33-year-old crown prince.
The 61-year-old emir announced the move Tuesday in a speech broadcast on state television. He says the time has come for a new generation to lead.
Major changes in Qatar's foreign policy are not expected, because Sheikh Tamim was already playing a role in running the country.
The emir led Qatar since 1995, after taking over in a bloodless coup from his own father. In recent years, the country has pressed its influence in the region, notably backing the rebels who toppled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and those who are now fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Qatar is the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. It has invested its wealth globally, including stakes in German car maker Volkswagen, British department store Harrods and the French football club Paris Saint-Germain. In 2022, it will host the football World Cup.
"As I address you today, I declare that I will hand over the reins of power to Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. I am entirely certain that he is up to the responsibility and that he deserves the confidence and that he is capable of shouldering the responsibility and fulfilling the task. I am sure you will be his support as you have always been mine, for the simple reason that in our nation the pledges of alliance run deep between the ruler and his people as well as deep solidarity and profound inventiveness, cemented by our deep-rooted traditions and magnificent history. The future lies ahead of you, the children of this homeland, as you enter a new era where young leadership raises the banner, bearing in mind the aspirations of future generations and working resolutely and tenaciously to achieve them while seeking guidance and support from God first and from the sons of the country and getting the strength from the experience gained in running the country's affairs and the profound knowledge of realities in our region, particularly the Arab World."