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UAE President Khalifa dies at 73

Leader had been in ill health since stroke, surgery in 2014 by ADAM SCHRECK and AYA BATRAWY The Associated Press | May 14, 2022 at 4:31 a.m.
The Absentee Prayer is performed Friday in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, after the death of Emirati President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. More photos at arkansasonline.com/514khalifa/. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The United Arab Emirates' long-ailing ruler and president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, died Friday, the government announced in a brief statement. He was 73.

Khalifa oversaw much of the country's economic growth and his name was immortalized on the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, after bailing out Dubai during its financial crisis over a decade ago.

However, after suffering a stroke and undergoing emergency surgery in 2014, a decade after becoming president, he ceased having any involvement in the day-to-day affairs of ruling the country.

The last several years of his life saw his half brother, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, rise to become the de facto ruler and decision-maker of major foreign policy decisions.

The UAE announced a 40-day period of mourning and a three-day suspension of work across the government and private sector, including flags to be flown at half-staff.

There was no immediate announcement on a successor.

Messages of condolences also poured in from around the region and the world.

"The UAE has lost a loyal son, and the leader of its blessed empowerment journey," Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed wrote on Twitter after his brother's death was officially announced on state media. "Khalifa bin Zayed, my brother, supporter and mentor, may Allah Almighty grant you eternal peace."

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described Khalifa "as a true friend of the United States," adding that the U.S. remains committed to its steadfast friendship and cooperation with the UAE. Vice President Kamala Harris also expressed her condolences.

Khalifa was born in 1948 in Al Ain, near the border of Oman. He was the eldest son of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who's revered by Emiratis as the country's founding father. He was trained at Sandhurst -- the royal military academy in England.

In 1969, Khalifa was named as Abu Dhabi prime minister and chairman of the emirate's Department of Defense, which later became the core of the UAE's armed forces.

Khalifa helped boost the UAE's regional profile by bulking up its military with hefty purchases from U.S. weapons manufacturers.

He set warplanes to the NATO-led mission against Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya in 2011. In 2014, the Emirates became one of the most prominent Arab participants in U.S.-led airstrikes against the militant Islamic State group in Syria.

Under Khalifa's presidency, the UAE joined Saudi Arabia in sending forces to Bahrain to quell an uprising there by the country's majority Shiite population demanding greater rights from the island-nation's Sunni leadership.

He increasingly used Abu Dhabi's oil wealth to attract cultural and academic centers, such as a branch of the Louvre Museum and satellite campuses of New York University and the Sorbonne. He also presided over efforts to move the OPEC country beyond its reliance on petrodollars with investments in renewable energy research.

He has been credited with overseeing the creation and growth of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, now one of the world's largest sovereign wealth funds with close to $700 billion in assets, according to estimates by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.

Khalifa was believed to be among the world's richest rulers with a personal fortune estimated by Forbes magazine in 2008 at $19 billion. He built a palace in the Seychelles, an island-chain nation in the Indian Ocean, and faced complaints there about causing water pollution from the construction site.

His personal life was not much in the public eye. He was passionate about the traditional sport of falconry and was said to enjoy fishing.

Though he had been out of public sight since his stroke, Khalifa's image graces every hotel lobby and major government office across the country. On occasion, Emirati state media published rare photographs and videos of Khalifa.

He is known to have had eight children -- two sons and six daughters -- with his first wife, Sheikha Shamsa bint Suhail Al Mazrouei. He is also survived by several grandchildren.

  photo  FILE - President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrives at Clarence House in central London, to meet the Prince of Wales on the second day of his State Visit to the UK, Wednesday May 1, 2013. Sheikh Khalifa died Friday, May 13, 2022, the government's state-run news agency announced in a brief statement. He was 73. (AP Photo/ John Stillwell, pool, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - In this image made available by Emirates News Agency, WAM, UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, 2nd right, walks with Saudi Arabia's Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz during the 31st Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC summit in Abu Dhabi, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010. Sheikh Khalifa died Friday, May 13, 2022, the government's state-run news agency announced in a brief statement. He was 73. (AP Photo/WAM-HO, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - In this photo made available by Emirates News Agency, WAM, Monday March 14, 2011, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, left, meets UAE president Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, 2nd right, and UAE Crown Prince Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday March 13, 2011. Sheikh Khalifa died Friday, May 13, 2022, the government's state-run news agency announced in a brief statement. He was 73. (AP Photo/WAM-HO, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - The Prince of Wales with the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan during his visit to Clarence House in central London on the second day of his State Visit to the UK Wednesday May 1, 2013. Sheikh Khalifa died Friday, May 13, 2022, the government's state-run news agency announced in a brief statement. He was 73. (AP Photo/John Stillwell, Pool, File)
 
 
  photo  People pass by the UAE national flag flies at half-staff after the announcement of the Emirates president's death, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Friday, May 13, 2022. Sheikh Khalifa died Friday, May 13, 2022, the government's state-run news agency announced in a brief statement. He was 73. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
 
 
  photo  UAE national flag flies at half-staff after the announcement of the Emirates president's death, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Friday, May 13, 2022. Sheikh Khalifa died Friday, May 13, 2022, the government's state-run news agency announced in a brief statement. He was 73. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
 
 
  photo  FILE - This photo by Emirates News Agency, WAM, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi, right, is greeted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, center, as Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, the ruler of Ajman, left, looks on at Al Bateen Palace in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, In this Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Sheikh Khalifa died Friday, May 13, 2022, the government's state-run news agency announced in a brief statement. He was 73. (Rashed al-Mansoori/Ministry of Presidential Affairs via AP, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan walks with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, unseen, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Feb. 5, 2007, to discuss bilateral relations. Sheikh Khalifa died Friday, May 13, 2022, the government's state-run news agency announced in a brief statement. He was 73. (AP Photo/WAM, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - President of the United Arab Emirates Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan leaves Downing Street after a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, in London, Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Sheikh Khalifa died Friday, May 13, 2022, the government's state-run news agency announced in a brief statement. He was 73. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)
 
 



 Gallery: UAE's Sheikh Khalifa, 1948-2022



Print Headline: UAE President Khalifa dies at 73

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