Oman's Sultan Qaboos 'in good health' - minister


Muscat (AFP)

Sultan Qaboos of Oman is in "good health", the country's foreign minister said Thursday, as rumours circulated that the 75-year-old monarch had been hospitalised.

"He is well and thanks to God, he is in good health," said Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah in an interview with the Saudi newspaper Okaz.

Qaboos, who has ruled the Gulf sultanate since 1970, reduced his public activities since having treatment for colon cancer in 2014.

His ill health and repeated hospital spells in Germany have focused attention on the fact that he has no designated successor.

The sultan has no children or brothers, meaning his cousins are his closest relatives.

Bin Abdullah told Okaz the sultan's succession was "arranged in a clear way" and that "people are more worried outside the country than inside".

According to a 1996 constitution, the sultan must write a letter designating a successor from the ruling dynasty, to be opened in the event that his family cannot agree on his replacement within three days of his death.

Diplomats say the sultan's long absences from the public eye have stirred worries about stability in the country, which faces Iran across the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

In contrast to other Arab Gulf states -- particularly Iran's arch-rival Saudi Arabia -- Oman enjoys relatively warm ties with Iran.

Qaboos took the throne on July 23, 1970 after ousting his father, allegedly for being too conservative.

He has set about reforming the small sultanate, which nevertheless remains an absolute monarchy.