updated 11/29/2004 4:30:55 PM ET 2004-11-29T21:30:55

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 American college student, 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. He declined to say if Hamzah, who returned home Friday on a college break, was present.

Abdullah was making this move “to tell everyone that he’s firmly on the saddle,” said Jordanian political analyst Labib Kamhawi Kamhawi.

Abdullah and Hamzah displayed no open rivalry. The king hosted a state reception and a gala dinner for Hamzah on May 27, when the royal family officially celebrated the prince’s August wedding to a distant cousin. Abdullah is often seen warmly greeting Hamzah in public. Officials say privately that he lets Hamzah in on private matters.

Mahmoud Kharabsheh, a longtime member of parliament’s Legal Committee, said the change was in line with the constitution, which says the crown must go to Abdullah’s eldest son — Hussein, now age 10 — or his eldest brother, Faisal, but not to Hamzah, who is one of the king’s younger brothers.

A senior aide to the king said the move had no political ramifications.

Abdullah did not name a successor on Sunday. He said he would continue to give the issue his “sincere attention.”

Hamzah is Hussein’s son from his fourth marriage, to New York-born Lisa Halaby, who became Queen Noor when she converted to Islam upon her marriage to Hussein in 1978.

Abdullah is Hussein’s eldest son. His mother is Englishwoman Antoinette Gardiner, who became known as Princess Muna, the late king’s second wife.

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