The emir of Kuwait, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, dies at age 79

The emir of Kuwait, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who allowed the United States to use his tiny oil-rich country as a launch pad for the invasion that toppled Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, died Sunday, state television announced. He was 79. In an official statement in early afternoon, the Cabinet named the crown prince, Sheik Saad Al Abdullah Al Sabah, as his successor. Al Sabah had been ailing since suffering a brain hemorrhage five years ago.

"According to the constitution and article 4 of the 1964 succession law, the Cabinet calls for his successor and crown prince to become the country's emir," said a Cabinet statement read on television by the information minister, Anas al-Rsheid.

Sheik Saad is a distant cousin who is in his mid-70s and has serious health problems of his own, the AP reports. The ill-health of the top leaders had led to serious succession worries in Kuwait late last year and it was not clear what the ruling family would decide in the longer term.