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Friday, January 22, 1999 Published at 23:19 GMT

World: Middle East

King Hussein drops heir

King Hussein's brother has been Crown Prince since 1965

King Hussein of Jordan has removed his brother Prince Hassan as heir to the throne, according to royal sources in Amman.

Prince Hassan is reported to have had an audience with the monarch shortly after being informed of the King's decision.

The sources said Prince Hassan, who has been Crown Prince since 1965, would remain as a senior member of the royal family, but it is unclear what his role will be.

[ image: King Hussein returned to Jordan on Tuesday]
King Hussein returned to Jordan on Tuesday
The King returned to Jordan earlier this week following six months of cancer treatment in the United States.

Officials say he has been cured following six rounds of chemotherapy and a marrow cell transplant for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

He has ruled Jordan since 1952.

Two sons waiting

The BBC Amman correspondent, Richard Downes, says the new heir to the throne is expected to be one of King Hussein's sons - Abdallah, 36, or Hamza, 18.

Richard Downes in Amman: King wants his own sons to take over
Abdullah is Hussein's son from his second marriage, to a British woman, Toni Gardiner, who adopted the name Mona when she converted to Islam upon her marriage to King Hussein in 1960.

Abdullah is an army major general and in charge of a special force which oversees the security of the royal dynasty. He attended military schools in the UK and the United States.

Hamza, who will turn 19 on March 29, is Hussein's son from his fourth marriage, to American-born Queen Noor, the former Elizabeth Halaby.

Hamza is attending courses at Sandhurst Military Academy in the UK.

>Our correspondent says both the King and the Queen are keen that the line of succession should pass to their own sons. Earlier speculation

In an CNN interview earlier this week, King Hussein refused to confirm reports that he would replace Prince Hassan.

"Please don't commit me to anything whatsoever because I have not come up with [a decision]," he said.

The King recalled that at the time he chose Hassan as his heir, "I thought ... there was no substitute but to find a member of the family close by to take over."

But, he added: "I did not mean at all that it would be the end of the story there."

Speculation had been rife that King Hussein wanted to make changes to the succession arrangements to ensure that his own sons - rather than those of Prince Hassan - inherited his mantle.

The King appeared to fuel the rumours by saying he was considering change, and recalling that he had made his brother his heir because at the time, there had been no alternative.

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