Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, leader of the United Arab Emirates, has died

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Long-suffering UAE leader Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan died on Friday, the government news agency said in a brief statement. He was 73 years old.

Khalifa, the president of the United Arab Emirates, has overseen much of the country’s meteoric economic growth and his name has been immortalized on the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, after he bailed out debt-ridden Dubai during its financial crisis. over ten years ago.

The United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced a 40-day mourning period and a three-day work suspension across all ministries and the private sector beginning Friday, including flags to be lowered to half-mast.

He had long ceased to involve himself in the day-to-day affairs of running the country. Instead, his half-brother, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, was seen as the de facto ruler and decision maker of major foreign policy decisions, such as participation in a Saudi-led war. Saudi Arabia in Yemen and the spearhead of an embargo on neighboring Qatar. during the last years.

There was no immediate announcement of a successor, although Mohammed bin Zayed is expected to claim the presidency.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan died on Friday, May 13, 2022, the government news agency reported.
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Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan died on Friday, May 13, 2022, the government news agency reported.
(AP Photo/WAM)

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Khalifa, who was rarely seen in official photos or at public events for years, succeeded his father, the founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed, in 2004.

He suffered a stroke and underwent emergency surgery a decade later, although authorities did not announce the news until the following day. He’s been largely out of public view ever since.

In 2017, 2018 and 2019, Emirati state media published rare photographs and videos of Khalifa. In the latest footage, Khalifa wore white sneakers and a white traditional dress as he greeted Sheikh Mohammed and other Emirati leaders.

Khalifa, the eldest son of the first ruler of the United Arab Emirates after the federation was formed in 1971, held the most powerful position among the seven semi-autonomous city-states stretching along the shores of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of ‘Oman. His role as president stemmed from his position as the hereditary ruler of Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest emirate in the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi is home to the federal capital.

Despite its size and vast oil wealth, Abu Dhabi has often found itself overshadowed by the glitzy neighboring emirate of Dubai, the commercial hub of the Middle East that showcases both the bold visions of the United Arab Emirates and, at times, debt-fueled pipedreams, including a huge palm-shaped man-made island that stands empty years after it was created.

As Dubai’s fortunes began to falter with the global economy in 2009, Khalifa led efforts to protect the federation by injecting billions of dollars in emergency rescue funds into Dubai. The two emirates do not always agree on foreign policy decisions and compete commercially. In 2003, Khalifa called for the creation of a new airline, Etihad Airways, which competes with Emirates Air, Dubai’s successful and much larger carrier.

Khalifa has increasingly used Abu Dhabi’s oil wealth to attract cultural and academic centers, such as branches of the Louvre Museum and satellite campuses of New York University and the Sorbonne. He also chaired efforts to rouse the OPEC country from its dependence on petrodollars with investments in renewable energy research, including plans for a futuristic low-carbon desert city known as from Masdar.

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak meets with Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, March 13, 2011. (AP Photo/WAM-HO, File)

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak meets with Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, March 13, 2011. (AP Photo/WAM-HO, File)

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Abu Dhabi’s big spending abroad during Khalifa’s rule also helped push the emirate, which controls the bulk of the UAE’s oil reserves, out of Dubai’s shadow.

In 2007, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, came to the rescue of a struggling Citigroup Inc. with an injection of $7.5 billion. Less than two years later, another Abu Dhabi state fund made one of its biggest purchases in a series of headline-grabbing purchases when it paid nearly $2 billion euros (then worth around $2.7 billion) for a 9.1% stake in German automaker Daimler AG, closing it behind Mercedes-Benz.

Khalifa, meanwhile, has helped boost the UAE’s regional profile with relief missions in Pakistan after devastating floods and by sending warplanes to the NATO-led mission against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya in 2011.

Questions have been raised during Khalifa’s rule over the UAE’s use of foreign military contractors, including one linked to the founder of former security company Blackwater, Erik Prince, who moved to Abu Dhabi in 2009 Prince was involved in a multi-million dollar program to train troops to fight pirates in Somalia, according to an official who spoke to The Associated Press in early 2009.

But Khalifa’s name is perhaps best known around the world for its connection to the world’s tallest building, a nearly half-mile (828 meter) glass and steel spire in Dubai.

The tower’s name was unexpectedly changed from Burj Dubai to Burj Khalifa when it officially opened in January 2010 following its decision to funnel billions of dollars into Dubai to save it from a full-scale financial collapse.

Khalifa became president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi in November 2004 following the death of his father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, widely revered by Emiratis as the country’s founding father.

Khalifa’s image was ubiquitous, adorning every hotel lobby and government office across the country. But unlike Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the federation’s vice president and prime minister, he has rarely been seen in public.

Prince Charles and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan meet in London on May 1, 2013.

Prince Charles and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan meet in London on May 1, 2013.
(AP Photo/John Stillwell, Pool)

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A US diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks in 2010 uncharitably described the president as “a distant and uncharismatic character”.

Khalifa was born in 1948 in the inland oasis of Al Ain, near the border with the Sultanate of Oman, and is named after his great-grandfather, Sheikh Khalifa bin Shakhbout.

In 1969, while the region was still a British protectorate, Khalifa was appointed prime minister of Abu Dhabi and chairman of the emirate’s defense department, which later became the core of the UAE’s armed forces. After independence in 1971, he became Minister of Defense along with other roles. Later, the title of Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces was assumed by Mohammed bin Zayed.

Although the ruling sheikhs in the UAE wield near absolute power, Khalifa began an electoral experiment by allowing a limited vote – by a hand-picked electorate – for half the members of a 40-seat federal advisory body in 2006. Subsequent rounds of elections in 2011 and 2015 failed to attract even two out of five people lucky enough to vote.

The UAE has seen none of the Arab Spring street protests that rocked other parts of the region, although in the aftermath of the unrest Khalifa oversaw a tougher crackdown on Islamists and others activists, drawing criticism from international rights groups. The UAE has also supported regional efforts to crush the Muslim Brotherhood, including in Egypt.

He was considered one of the richest leaders in the world, with a personal fortune estimated by Forbes magazine in 2008 at $19 billion. He built a palace in Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, and faced complaints there about water pollution from the construction site.

In 2007, Khalifa made a major donation to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Complex in Baltimore. The size of the donation was not disclosed, but it was described as “transformative”.

After falling ill, it fell to his half-brother and designated successor, Mohammed bin Zayed, to take care of many of Khalifa’s post-stroke duties, often in conjunction with Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai. . The transition went largely unnoticed, as many Emirati and foreign diplomats have long assumed the crown prince to be a central power broker in the UAE’s leadership.

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In September 2014, the Emirates became one of the most prominent Arab participants in the US-led airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group in Syria, deploying its first female Army Air Force pilot. air during the initial raid.

These sorties were followed by a heavy-handed intervention in Yemen as part of a Saudi-led coalition alongside the impoverished country’s internationally recognized government against Shiite rebels who had seized the capital of Sanaa and other regions. The UAE has deployed thousands of troops, 52 of whom were killed in a September 2015 missile attack on their base – the heaviest military casualty in the country’s history.

Khalifa’s personal life was not widely known to the public. Like many in the Gulf, he was passionate about the traditional sport of falconry and was said to enjoy fishing. He is known to have had eight children – two sons and six daughters – with his first wife, Sheikha Shamsa bint Suhail Al Mazrouei. He also leaves to mourn several grandchildren.

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