Influential Qatar has new emir

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The new emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani, standing on the right, greets Qatari dignitaries next to his father in pictures broadcast by the Emirate's state television on Wednesday.

The outgoing emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani announced on Tuesday that he was stepping down, a highly unusual step for a hereditary ruler.

In a speech broadcast on Qatar state television, Sheikh Hamad explained it was time for a new generation to take over and expressed his confidence in his son Sheikh Tamim, who was set to take on the responsibility.

Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim's ascent provides a stark contrast to other Gulf Arab states whose youthful populations are ruled by kings or princes in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

Diplomats had said the 61-year-old emir had long planned to abdicate in favor of his 33-year-old son.

But Qatari political analysts questioned whether there would be major changes to foreign policy or domestic plans after the handover, as