UAE leader Sheikh Khalifa has died at the age of 83

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Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the long-ailing president of the United Arab Emirates, named after the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, died on May 13. He was 73 years old.

The UAE government announced his death in a brief statement without elaborating. Sheikh Khalifa, who became president in 2004, relinquished control of the country’s affairs after a stroke in 2014 and has rarely been seen in public in recent years.

The UAE’s Ministry of Presidential Affairs has declared 40 days of mourning and suspended work in the public and private sectors for three days, with the flag flying with half the staff.

Sheikh Khalifa succeeded his father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. After the country gained independence from Britain in 1971, his father was widely respected in the UAE as the founding father of the United Arab Emirates.

Although he has been out of the public eye since his stroke, Sheikh Khalifa’s image was ubiquitous, in every hotel lobby and in major government offices across the country. On this occasion, the state media of the UAE has published rare pictures and videos of Sheikh Khalifa.

As President, he held the strongest position among the seven semi-autonomous emirates 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 richest emirate in the UAE.

Historically, the President of the United Arab Emirates is from Abu Dhabi, and the Vice President and Prime Minister – now Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum – is from Dubai.

The UAE’s regional strength and influence stem from Abu Dhabi, where the country holds most of its oil and natural gas reserves. Early in his term as the second president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa oversaw most of the country’s rapid economic growth.

Despite its size and resources, Abu Dhabi is often overshadowed by Dubai’s glittering emirate, the commercial hub that showcases both the UAE’s daring vision and, occasionally, a huge palm-shaped, man-made island with debt-fuel pipe dreams. An empty sitting structure after years of being made to match a similar and occupied man-made structure.

As Dubai’s fortunes began to plummet with the global economy in 2009, Sheikh Khalifa led efforts to protect the federation by pumping billions of dollars of emergency bailout funds into Dubai. As a result, the name of the Tower of Dubai was changed from Burj Dubai to Burj Khalifa during the official inauguration in January 2010.

The two emirates sometimes disagree on international and commercial decisions: in 2003, Sheikh Khalifa ordered the creation of a new airline, Etihad Airways, which competes with many of the larger Emirates in Dubai.

Sheikh Khalifa also used Abu Dhabi’s oil resources to attract cultural and academic centers, such as a branch of the Louvre Museum in Paris and the satellite campus of New York University and the Sorbonne. He presided over efforts to move OPEC out of dependence on petrodollars by investing in renewable-energy research with a vision for a future low-carbon-desert town known as Masdar. The UAE last year announced a net-zero emissions target by 2050, even as it expands investment in oil and natural gas for exports.

Sheikh Khalifa helped boost the UAE’s regional profile in 2011 by sending warplanes to a NATO-led mission in Libya against the rule of Moammar Gadhafi. Militant groups in Syria have deployed the first female air force pilot in an initial operation.

Abu Dhabi’s large expenditure abroad during Sheikh Khalifa’s rule helped shape its investment strategy. The Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute estimates that the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority is now one of the largest sovereign asset funds in the world, with approximately $ 700 billion in assets. Sheikh Khalifa’s personal wealth was estimated at $ 19 billion in 2008 by Forbes Magazine.

His half-brother, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, was seen as the country’s powerful de facto ruler and leader in major foreign policy decisions, including joining the Saudi-led war in Yemen and leading sanctions against the Persian Gulf neighbor. Qatar in recent years.

There was no immediate word on a successor, although Mohammed is expected to run for president as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan was born in September 1948 in the inland oasis of Al Ain near the border with Oman.

He was educated at Sandhurst, the Royal Military Academy in Britain. In 1969, when Abu Dhabi was still a British stronghold, Sheikh Khalifa was nominated Prime Minister and Chairman of Abu Dhabi’s Defense Department, which later became the core of the UAE Armed Forces. After independence in 1971, he became the Minister of Defense.

Although the ruling Sheikh of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa, has absolute power, Sheikh Khalifa began an experiment in 2006 by allowing limited voting for half the members of a 40-seat federal advisory body.

He observed crackdowns on Islamists and other activists, which the UAE saw as a threat to its ruling system, and supported efforts to dismantle the Muslim Brotherhood, including Egypt.

Under his presidency, the UAE joined forces with Saudi Arabia to send troops to Bahrain to quell an uprising demanding greater rights from the country’s Shiite-majority island nation’s Sunni leadership.

During Sheikh Khalifa’s rule, questions were raised about the use of foreign military contractors in the UAE, including Eric Prince, the founder of the former Blackwater security firm, who moved to Abu Dhabi in 2009.

In the last years of Sheikh Khalifa’s presidency, his half-brother, Mohammed, shaped the UAE’s emerging relationship with Israel after the two countries normalized relations in 2020.

Sheikh Khalifa is said to have had eight children with his first wife, Sheikh Shamsa bint Suhail al-Majrooi, and several grandchildren.

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