UAE President Sheikh Khalifa passes away at 73

Emirates to observe 40-day mourning period; President Alvi, PM Shehbaz, other world leaders express condolences


Web Desk May 13, 2022
United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan. PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI/ ISLAMABAD:

United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has died (at the age of 73), the Ministry of Presidential Affairs said on Friday. He was also the ruler of Abu Dhabi emirate.

"The Ministry of Presidential Affairs mourns to the UAE people, Arab and Islamic nations and the world the death of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who passed away on Friday," the ministry said in a statement on state media without giving further details.

Under the Constitution, vice president and premier Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, would act as president until the federal council which groups the rulers of the seven emirates meets within 30 days to elect a new president.

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Sheikh Mohammed said the country was mourning "with hearts filled with sadness".

"His stances, achievements, wisdom, generosity and initiatives are in every corner of the nation... Khalifa bin Zayed, my brother... may God have mercy on you and grant you access to paradise", he added.

"The Emirates has lost its virtuous son and leader of the 'stage of empowerment' and the trustee of its blessed journey," MbZ tweeted on Friday.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The people of the Emirates are united in grief as we mourn the loss of our leader and President, Khalifa bin Zayed. My brother and mentor, and the UAE’s first son, we were blessed by your strength, wisdom and leadership. May God have mercy on your soul and may you rest in peace.</p>&mdash; محمد بن زايد (@MohamedBinZayed) <a href="https://twitter.com/MohamedBinZayed/status/1525128604098736129?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 13, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

The UAE would observe a 40-day mourning period with flags flown at half-mast as of Friday and suspend work at all public and private sector entities for three days, the ministry said.

Khalifa came to power in 2004 in the richest emirate Abu Dhabi and became the head of state. He is expected to be succeeded as ruler of Abu Dhabi by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed. Abu Dhabi, which holds most of the Gulf state's oil wealth, has held the presidency since the founding of the UAE federation by Khalifa's father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, in 1971.

The UAE, a former British protectorate, has gone from desert outpost to booming state in its short history, fuelled by its oil wealth and Dubai's rise as a trading and financial centre.

The Arab world's second-biggest economy behind Saudi Arabia has also begun to wield growing political influence, filling a space ceded by traditional powers such as Egypt, Iraq and Syria.

The country of some 10 million also joined military campaigns in Libya and Yemen and broke ranks with much of the Arab world to establish ties with Israel in 2020.

The bearded Sheikh Khalifa had cut a frail figure on his occasional public appearances, while his half-brother hosted world leaders and led diplomatic forays abroad.

Khalifa, who had no formal higher education, led the UAE as Dubai emerged as a tourism and trade hub and Abu Dhabi pumped oil as a key Opec player.

He came to the rescue of Dubai when it was hit by the global financial crisis in 2009, extending a multibillion-dollar lifeline to the debt-laden emirate.

Condolences started pouring in from Arab leaders including Bahrain's king, Egypt's president and Iraq's prime minister.

The US mission to Abu Dhabi called Sheikh Khalifa "a true friend of the United States", while Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani also offered their condolences.

At the news of Sheikh Khalifa's passing, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took to his official Twitter account to express his condolences.

"Deeply grieved to hear about the passing of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, President of UAE. UAE has lost a visionary leader & Pakistan a great friend. We send our heartfelt condolences & sympathies to the government & people of the UAE. May Allah rest his soul in peace!" the Tweet read.

The army chief also expressed his condolences.

 

Agencies (With input from news desk)

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