By Zainab Fattah

A senior Saudi Arabian official denied a report that the former heir to the throne, Prince Muhammed bin Nayef, has been confined to his palace since he was removed from his position last week.

Since stepping down, the prince faces no restrictions on his movement and has left home on a daily basis, the official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. The New York Times reported on Thursday that the prince has been barred from leaving the kingdom and was confined to his palace in the coastal city of Jeddah, citing current and former American officials and Saudis close to the royal family.

The Saudi royal palace has sought to project an image of stability and unity regarding the kingdom’s new heir after Bin Nayef, 57, was relieved of his post in favor of 31-year-old Mohammed bin Salman. Thirty-one of the 34 members in the Allegiance Council, which decides on matters of succession, voted in favor of the appointment, and state television showed footage of Prince Mohammed kissing the hand of his sidelined elder cousin — an apparent effort to lay to rest concern of a behind-the-scenes power struggle.

The abrupt shakeup consolidated the young crown prince’s growing power in the world’s biggest oil exporter. Even before the promotion, Prince Mohammed was dictating defence and oil policy, including overseeing plans to sell a stake in state oil giant Aramco. He has also led the war effort in Yemen against Iran-backed rebels and was a key figure in the decision to isolate Qatar this month.

Bloomberg News