The emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, said Monday that he has decided to hand over power to Crown Prince Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Qatari-based Al Jazeera network reported.

The 61-year-old ruler made the announcement at a gathering of royal family members and prominent society figures, and plans to address the nation Tuesday on his decision, officials told Al Jazeera.

Some of the emirate's closest allies had already been notified of his intentions amid growing rumors about an imminent transfer of power, the network said.

Sheik Hamad has been Qatari head of state since 1995, after ousting his father in a palace coup, and has made this small, energy-rich country a key force in the region.

Born July 3, 1980, Tamim graduated from Britain's Sandhurst military academy in 1998 and has been crown prince since Aug. 5, 2003.

A big sports fan, he is also a member of the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, and has been one of the promoters working to bring the 2022 soccer World Cup tournament to the Gulf nation. EFE