RIYADH - Saudi King Abdullah has appointed Prince Saud bin Nayef as the new governor of the kingdom's oil-rich Eastern Province, home to the Shiite minority that frequently complains of discrimination, the official SPA news agency reported Monday.
Prince Saud replaces Prince Mohammed bin Fahd who was in office since 1985 but was strongly criticised by Shiite activists for his aggressive policy towards them.
Prince Saud, who was the kingdom's envoy in Spain, is the eldest son of former crown Prince Nayef -- a half-brother of King Abdullah -- who died last June.
Nayef had also supported dealing firmly with opponents and the Shiite minority.
Since early 2011, mainly Shiite towns in Eastern Province have seen sporadic protests and confrontations between police and Shiites who are estimated to number some two million in the Sunni-dominated kingdom.
King Abdullah also appointed Prince Faisal, son of Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, as governor of the holy city of Medina, in the west, the agency said.
He replaces Prince Abdul Aziz bin Majed bin Abdul Aziz, a member of the royal family who had held the post since 2006.
Members of the royal family usually hold the positions of governors, a rank of minister, in several regions of the kingdom.
The old generation of Saudi princes clung to power for too long. Seniority was defined by age and loyalty.
If one looks at the distribution of power in the kingdom today he may realize that power has been already transferred to the second generation of princes.