Ahmed Zaki Yamani, a long-serving former oil minister in Saudi Arabia who steered the Opec lynchpin’s high-profile ministry for more than two decades and played a key role in the 1973 oil crisis, died on Tuesday.

Yamani, 90, died in London, local media reports said, without giving a cause of death.

Known for his elegant manner, Yamani's 24-year tenure (1962-1986) running the Oil Ministry for the world’s largest crude producer made him a popular figure in the oil fraternity.

Opec hostage drama

He was a witness to the 1975 murder of Saudi King Faisal bin Abdulaziz al Saud, who had chosen him— a non-royal — as oil minister.

In the same year, Yamani was kidnapped at an Opec meeting by Ilyich Ramirez Sanchez, known as Carlos the Jackal.

Yamani and the other Opec ministers were taken hostage by Carlos in Vienna, Austria, in December 1975.

However, the hostages were later released after two days flying in a plane across North Africa, even as Carlos was ordered by his superiors to execute Yamani and his Iranian counterpart Jamshid Amouzegar.

Storied career

Yamani had a remarkable career at the Saudi Oil Ministry, as a commoner in a government that was otherwise heavily dominated by the royal family.

He also steered what would later become the full nationalisation of the Arabian American Oil Company, now known as Saudi Aramco, after the 1973 oil crisis.

Yamani was born on on 30 June, 1930, as a son of an Islamic scholar and judge in Mecca.

He later held degrees from various institutions including New York University School of Law, Harvard Law School, and a doctorate from the University of Exeter.

His tenure as the kingdom’s high-profile oil minister ended with his abrupt sacking in 1986, after a an attempt to prop up crude prices, a failed strategy that has cast a shadow over Saudi oil policy to this day, Reuters reported.

Yamani had once said: "The Stone Age did not end because the world ran out of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil."

He will reportedly be buried in the Muslim holy city of Mecca.