As the government declares a three-day mourningYemen grieves loss of UAE’s great leader [Archives:2004/787/Front Page]

November 4 2004

Yemen Times Staff & Reuters
In an official message broadcast on national TV and official news agency Saba, Yemen's president conveyed his condolences to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the demise of its president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Aal Nahyan, who died at the age of 90 after 33 years of rule.
“The Arab and Islamic nations has lost one of its elite leaders and good men who had dedicated himself and spared no efforts to serve their cases and worked on unifying the stance and achieving solidarity among them in front of major challenges and to have them gain a suitable position among world nations.” the statement said.
The statement conveyed Yemen's condolences to the family of the late leader and the people of UAE and the whole Muslim and Arab worlds.
“Yemen is greatly saddened for the departure of the courageous Arab leader, and expresses its sincere gratitude for his noble stances that supported the Yemeni people in various situations and for supporting the causes of the Umma in different times and places.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi commented on this tragic event saying: “The death of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nehayan is not only a loss for the people of the UAE, but is also a substantial loss for Yemen and the Arab World.”
He added that Yemenis could never forget the deceased president for his good deeds, particularly for Yemen. He added that sadness for his death is evident throughout the country.
“Sheikh Zayed has helped us achieve many accomplishments in Yemen particularly through his role in the reconstruction of the Marib Dam. He supported the development process in Yemen in a diversity of fields,” the minister explained.
Yemeni television switched to Qoranic readings after the news. “Today we lost the sage of the Arab world,” Kuwait Energy Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah said. “He called for justice and through it tried to unite the Arab nation.”
The funeral of Sheikh Zayed was held on Wednesday afternoon and his eldest son and expected heir Crown Prince Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan would receive condolences for three days as of Wednesday.
The state said the flag would be flown at half-mast for 40 days. Government offices will close for eight days and private firms for three days starting Wednesday, when foreign and Arab leaders are expected to arrive in the capital for the funeral.
Millions in the UAE grieved for the loss of a ruler who made the country one of the few Arab development successes.
“Our father has died,” sobbed Farah Seif in Dubai. Under the constitution, Vice-President and Prime Minister Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, will act as president until the federal council which groups rulers of the seven emirates meets within 30 days to elect a president.
Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheikh Khalifa will automatically take over as ruler of the capital Abu Dhabi. Officials expect the council to elect Khalifa president with power remaining in Abu Dhabi where 93 percent of the oil wealth is concentrated.
“The royal court announces … to the world the death of the leader of the nation Sheikh Zayed on Tuesday evening,” the state said. Broadcast media switched to readings from the Koran.
Born in 1948, Sheikh Khalifa plays a big role in running the UAE. He heads Abu Dhabi's Supreme Petroleum Council, which drafts oil policy, and is deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces. The pro-Western moderniser heads Abu Dhabi's investment arm, estimated to hold over $200 billion in assets abroad.
“Any change from father to son will be seamless,” said a Western diplomat.
Sheikh Zayed's death caused sorrow among his people who held him in high esteem and in the Arab world where his traditional bedouin generosity and diplomacy won him a prominent place. Mostly, he tried to avoid confrontation in foreign policy.
Bahrain said its government sector would close for three days of mourning from Tuesday and Oman said government offices would remain shut for three days starting Wednesday. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah offered condolences by telephone. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Sheikh Zayed was “a true Arab leader with faith in Arab nationalism”.
Witnesses said police in Abu Dhabi ordered shops and public places, that usually stay open late into the night during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, to close in mourning.
Sheikh Zayed, who received a kidney transplant in 2000, used oil income to transform seven mostly poor and feuding sheikhdoms into modern cities with strong economies. The country of 4.04 million people has one of the world's highest per capita incomes and expatriates make up over 85 percent of the population.