ABU DHABI: The UAE’s long-time de facto ruler Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan was elected as president on Saturday, official media said, a day after the death of former leader Sheikh Khalifa. The 61-year-old was unanimously elected by the Federal Supreme Council, WAM news agency said, becoming the ruler of the oil-rich country founded by his father in 1971. Sheikh Mohamed, often known as “MBZ”, met members of the Federal Supreme Council, made up of rulers of the UAE’s seven emirates, as the country enters a period of mourning for his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa.
HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Friday expressed heartfelt condolences on death of Sheikh Khalifa, saying Arab and Islamic nations lost “a great leader” who dedicated his life for service of his people, defending Arab and Islamic causes. HH the Amir Sheikh Nawaf on Saturday sent a cable of congratulations to Sheikh Mohamed, expressing felicitations after he was unanimously elected as the new UAE president
Sheikh Mohamed’s ascension formalizes his position as leader of the state of 10 million. Under his direction, the United Arab Emirates has put a man into space, sent a probe to Mars and opened its first nuclear reactor, while using its oil-funded clout to develop a more assertive foreign policy. Official media had already named Sheikh Mohamed as the ruler of Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s richest emirate, on Friday, inheriting one of the main titles held by Sheikh Khalifa who died at 73.
Sheikh Mohamed, wearing a light grey kandura or robe, was a pallbearer at the funeral prayers for Sheikh Khalifa who was laid to rest in Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Cemetery just hours after his death was announced, in accordance with Muslim tradition. Flags are at half-mast around the UAE and businesses and government offices are closed for three days as the country enters a 40-day period of mourning for Sheikh Khalifa, who had ruled since 2004. – Agencies