President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has died at the age of 73, state news agency WAM reported.
Nahyan, who was also the ruler of Abu Dhabi emirate, passed away on Friday.
“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs condoles the people of the UAE, the Arab and Islamic nation and the world over the demise of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the UAE,” a statement from WAM read on Twitter.
“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs also announced that the UAE will observe a forty-day state mourning with the flag flown at half-mast starting today, and suspend work at all ministries, departments, and federal, local and private entities for three days,” the statement read.
Sheikh Khalifa was battling illness for several years and had long ceased having involvement in day-to-day affairs. According to the UAE constitution, Vice-President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, will act as president until the federal council, consisting of the rulers of the seven emirates, meets within 30 days to elect a new president.
Sheikh Khalifa was born in 1948. He took over as the UAE’s second president in November 2004, succeeding his father as the 16th ruler of Abu Dhabi, the federation's richest emirate. He is expected to be succeeded as the ruler of Abu Dhabi by his half-brother Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who suffered a stroke in 2014, following which he has rarely been seen in public, although he has continued to issue rulings.