Reuters- The kingdom opposed the Arab Spring popular uprisings that have caused instability in neighbouring Yemen and Bahrain, fearing they might help to increase the influence of its major Gulf and regional rival, Shi'ite Muslim Iran.
DOUBTS OVER HIJACKERS
Nayef was quoted soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States as doubting that any Saudis had been involved. It turned out that 15 of the 19 airline hijackers were Saudis.
About 60 percent of Saudis are under the age of 30 and, with Internet penetration of 44 percent according to internetworldstats.com, are increasingly outward-looking.
King Abdullah's cautious reforms, opposed by conservative clerics, have aimed to create more private sector jobs, reduce the role of religion in education and improve the prospects of Saudi women.
The king may also make a wider cabinet reshuffle. The position of second-deputy prime minister, held by Nayef since 2009, is usually awarded to the prince who is considered third in line to the throne.
Although King Abdullah does not have to name anyone to the role, and did not appoint Nayef as second-deputy until four years after he became king, it might be seen as an important fail-safe given Abdullah and Nayef's ages.
Prince Salman, a younger full brother of Sultan and Nayef, is widely seen as the most senior prince after Nayef and the most likely to be given the role.
Prince Salman is thought to have been born in around 1936 and is the father of the country's tourism minister, Prince Sultan bin Salman, who in 1985 became the first Arab astronaut.
Former diplomats to Riyadh say he has a reputation as religious, and has wide experience dealing with foreign governments due to the country's many expatriate workers.
(Editing by Sami Aboudi)