Fri, Nov 05, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Deceased leader's son elected as president of the UAE

AFP , ABU DHABI

The emir of Abu Dhabi was elected Wednesday as president of the United Arab Emirates, succeeding his father, who died a day earlier and was laid to rest amid an outpouring of grief and the praise world leaders.

"The Supreme Federal Council Wednesday unanimously elected His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, governor of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, as president of the United Arab Emirates," the official WAM news agency said.

Sheikh Khalifa is the eldest son of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, who was founding father and head of state of the seven-member UAE federation since its formation in 1971.

He became emir of Abu Dhabi following his father's death on Tuesday, and it had been expected that he would be elected to succeed him as president of the UAE.

Arab and Muslim leaders joined thousands of grieving Emiratis Wednesday to pay their last respects to Sheikh Zayed.

A dozen heads of state took part alongside the ruling families of Abu Dhabi and other members of the seven-strong Gulf federation in the "prayer of the dead" ritual, as thousands of Emiratis crashed through barriers put up by police to enter the mosque courtyard in a ceremony broadcast live on television.

Crowds ran behind the convoy which later carried the body of Sheikh Zayed, who died after 33 years at the helm of the federation, to a mosque bearing his name at the entrance of the UAE capital. He was buried there.

Zayed was in his late eighties.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai were among Muslim leaders on hand at the funeral. Jordan's King Abdullah II, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Bahrain's King Hamad and Oman's Sultan Qaboos were also present.

Indian President Abdul Kalam and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, also offered their condolences, while Britain's Prince Charles landed at Abu Dhabi airport in the evening.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that he would arrive in the emirate to express his condolences yesterday.

Saudi Arabia was represented by its crown prince and de facto ruler, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. Both Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar and Prime Minister Iyad Allawi also came.

The dignitaries, including Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, were to offer condolences to Sheikh Khalifa starting Wednesday evening.

A number of envoys were expected to arrive later in the day, including German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

Iran, which has a territorial dispute with the UAE, sent First Vice President Mohammad Reza Arif.

The day had started with almost deserted streets in the UAE capital as verses from the Koran were read through mosque loudspeakers.

Official media said several churches were also to hold special services later this week.

Although Sheikh Zayed had been ill for some time, his death has cast a somber mood on the federation.

Government departments and private establishments were closed as the country, a member of OPEC, began an official 40-day period of mourning during which flags will fly at half-mast. The public sector will close down for eight days and the private sector for three.

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