Qatar is preparing to begin a leadership transition this summer in which the emir will relinquish power to his son, and his cousin, the owner of Harrods, will step down as prime minister.

Senior figures in Qatar have briefed foreign counterparts that the time has come for Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad, the 33 - year - old crown prince, to take over the leadership of the Persian Gulf state, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem, the prime minister and one of the biggest investors in Britain, will give up his post. The royal court will then announce that the 61 - year - old emir, Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, who has struggled with health problems, will cede powers to the Sandhurst - educated crown prince.

A British source close to Qatar was told of the plans earlier this year.

Representatives of the Qatari government were not able to comment on the discussions about the leadership but analysts said any changes in leadership would have huge implications for the Middle East and Western foreign policy.

Shaikh Hamad, the emir, took power in a bloodless coup in 1995 while his father was on a trip to Europe.