Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, president of UAE since 2004, passes away | World News

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Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates since 2004, died Friday aged 73. He had been ill for years though the cause of death was not immediately released. “The Ministry of Presidential Affairs condoles the people of the UAE, the Arab and Islamic nation, and the world over the demise of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE,” AFP said quoting WAM news agency.

The ministry also announced a 40-day mourning period, the Khaleej Times reported. Flags will be flown at half-mast and ministries and other departments will suspend work starting Friday.

The leader of the oil-rich state, rarely seen in public – particularly after surgery following a stroke in 2014 – is likely to be replaced by his brother, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed is already seen as the UAE’s de facto ruler.

“The Emirates has lost its virtuous son and leader of the ‘stage of empowerment’ and the trustee of its blessed journey,” bin Zayed tweeted in Arabic.

“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.”

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed’s death has been mourned around the world, with Kerala chief minister Pinaryai Vijayan, union minister Piyush Goyal and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi among those paying tributes from India.

The Congress’ Kerala unit and Kerala MP Shashi Tharoor also tweeted.

New Pakistan prime minister Shehbaz Sherif has also offered his condolences.

Rahul Gandhi, Piyush Goyal lead tributes for ‘visionary’ Sheikh Khalifa

Sheikh Khalifa took over as president (UAE’s second) in November 2004, succeeding his father as the 16th ruler of Abu Dhabi, the richest of the federation’s seven emirates. 

A decade later he suffered a stroke and underwent surgery, after which he largely disappeared from public life.

He did, however, issue rulings from time to time.

Although he had no formal higher education, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahya led the UAE as Dubai transformed into 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 multi-billion-dollar lifeline to the debt-laden emirate.

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 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.

With input from AFP, PTI

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