Qatar is preparing to launch a leadership transition this summer that will see the emir relinquish power to his son, and his cousin, the owner of Harrods, step down as prime minister.
Senior figures in Qatar have briefed foreign counterparts that the time has come for Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, the 33-year-old crown prince to take over the leadership of the gas-rich Gulf state, the Daily Telegraph has learned.
The succession plan, which is due to be launched by the end of the month, will see Hamad bin Jassim, the prime minister and one of the biggest investors in Britain, give up his post.
Within weeks of that decision the royal court will announce that the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, who has struggled with health problems, will cede powers to the Sandhurst-educated crown prince.
A prominent British visitor to the gas-rich Gulf state was told of the plans earlier this year and sources said other key states, including the US and Iran, have also been briefed about the succession.
"The plan is to manage a staged handover of power that allows the crown prince to come to the fore," said one source with knowledge of the discussions. "The stakes are very high because Qatar is at forefront of events in a very sensitive region."