DOHA : Crown Prince Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani of Qatar is to be named the new emir of the gas-rich Gulf state, a palace statement announced on Monday.

A statement said that Qataris will be asked on Tuesday and Wednesday to "swear allegiance to His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani as emir".

The emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, will then announce his abdication in favour of his 33-year-old son Tamim, who will become the youngest sovereign of any of the Gulf Arab monarchies.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who is to hand over to his son on Tuesday after 18 years on the throne, turned the tiny Gulf state from a desert backwater into a major world player.

The 61-year-old Sheikh Hamad suffers from kidney problems but diplomats say that is not why he is abdicating in favour of the 33-year-old Sheikh Tamim.

Hamad, whose autocratic government was a major backer of the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, is keen to hand over of his own accord, a rarity in a region where leaders generally seek to hang onto power for life.