Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the long-sick leader of the UAE, has died

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The ailing ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, died Friday, the state news agency announced in a brief statement. He is 73 years old.

Khalifa, the president of the UAE, oversaw much of the country’s blistering economic growth and his name is immortalized on the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, after rescuing debt-ridden

of flags at half-mast.

He had long since stopped being involved in the day-to-day affairs of governing the country. By contrast, his half-brother, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, is seen as a de-factor ruler and key foreign policy decision maker, such as joining the Saudi-led war on Yemen and spearheading embargoes on neighboring countries. Qatar in recent years.

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

Khalifa, who has rarely been seen in official photos or at public events for years, succeeded his father, UAE founder Sheikh Zayed, in 2004.

He suffered a stroke and underwent a state of emergency a decade later, although officials did not release the news until the following day. He has been largely out of public view since then.

In 2017, 2018 and 2019, Emirati state media published rare photos and videos of Khalifa. In the latest images, Khalifa is wearing white sneakers and a traditional white robe as he greets Sheikh Mohammed and other rulers of the Emirates.

Khalifa, the eldest son of the UAE’s first leader after the formation of the federation in 1971, holds the most powerful position among the seven semi-autonomous city-states that stretch along the coasts of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. His role as president stems from his position as hereditary ruler of Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s largest and richest emirate.

Despite its size and vast oil wealth, Abu Dhabi often finds itself overshadowed by the opulent neighboring emirate of Dubai, a Middle Eastern commercial hub that showcases the UAE’s bold vision and, at times, debt-fueled pipe dreams, including massive oil palm plantations. . an artificial island that was empty many years after its creation.

When Dubai’s fortunes began to falter along with the global economy in 2009, Khalifa led efforts to protect the federation by pumping billions of dollars in emergency bailout funds into Dubai. The two emirates do not always go head-to-head in foreign policy decision-making and compete commercially with each other. In 2003, he called for the creation of a new airline, Etihad Airways, to compete with the successful and much larger Dubai airline, Emirates Air.

Khalifa is increasingly using Abu Dhabi’s oil wealth to attract cultural and academic centers, such as the Louvre’s museum branch and the satellite campuses of New York University and the Sorbonne. He has also led efforts to move the OPEC nation beyond its dependence on petrodollars with investments in renewable energy research, including plans for a futuristic low-carbon desert city known as Masdar.

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

who was sick with a $7.5 billion injection. Less than two years later, another Abu Dhabi state fund made one of the largest in a string of eye-catching purchases when it paid nearly 2 billion euros (then worth about $2.7 billion) for a 9.1 percent stake in German automaker Daimler AG. , the company behind Mercedes-Benz.

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

Questions were raised during the Khalifa administration about the UAE’s use of foreign military contractors, including those related to the founder of former security firm Blackwater, Erik Prince, who moved to Abu Dhabi in 2009. Prince is involved in a multi-million dollar training program.

But the name Khalifa is probably the most familiar in the whole worlddue to its association with the world’s tallest building, the nearly half-mile (828 meters) tall glass and steel tower in Dubai.

The tower’s name suddenly changed from Burj Dubai to Burj Khalifa at its official opening in January 2010 following its decision to funnel billions of dollars into Dubai to save it from full-scale fines.

Khalifa took over as president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi in November 2004 following the death of his father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is

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