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KING ABRUPTLY STRIPS KIN OF ROLE AS HEIR APPARENT

King Abdullah II stripped his half brother and heir apparent of his title as crown prince in an abrupt shake-up Sunday aimed at redeeming the full power the king inherited from his late father.

He told Prince Hamzah in an emotional televised message that he had decided to "free" him "from the constraints of the position of crown prince in order to give you the freedom to work and undertake any mission or responsibility I entrust you with."

Abdullah had chosen Hamzah, now a 24-year-old college student in the United States, hours after their father -- King Hussein -- died of cancer in February 1999. The designation was out of respect for Hussein, who is known to have favored Hamzah the most among his 11 children from four marriages.

But Abdullah and his brothers had "reached mutual consent on the need for change," a senior government official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

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