In a speech on Qatar TV, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, 61, handed over power to his son, the intelligence chief, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al thani, 33, saying it was time for a new generation to take over. Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV said Sheikh Hamad told the "ruling family and top advisers" of his decision on Monday. A cabinet reshuffle is also expected and the long-serving Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, may also step aside. The retiring ruler is widely expected by DEBKAfile’s Gulf sources to continue pulling the strings behind the new emir. He made Qatar a major player in regional diplomacy in recent years with global aspirations, powered substantially by the emirate’s ownership of the Al Jazeera TV network. He was the first Arab ruler to visit the Gaza Strip and actively backs the Syrian opposition. Last week, Afghanistan's Taliban movement opened its first office in the capital Doha to facilitate peace talks with the United States.