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New ruler declared in Kuwait after death of regional peacemaker emir

Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Jaber Al Sabah will become oil-rich Kuwait's new leader after his older half-brother, Sabah, died earlier on Tuesday at the age of 91.

Kuwait City, 29 September 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Jaber Al Sabah will become oil-rich Kuwait’s new leader after his older half-brother, Sabah, died earlier on Tuesday at the age of 91.

The Arab world went into mourning as Kuwait announced the death of its emir, a man whose 16-year-rule was characterized by attempts to calm crises in the region.

Sabah died in the United States at 4 pm Kuwait time (1300 GMT), the Cabinet said.

The emir had recently travelled to the US for medical reasons.

Speculation about Sabah’s health had been ongoing for months, as he had been admitted to hospital several times since last year.

Earlier in the day, lawmaker Saleh Ashour tweeted that Prime Minister Sabah al-Khalid Al Sabah and Parliament Speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem left in the middle of a parliamentary session to meet with the crown prince.

According to the constitution, Nawaf, 83, will become the Gulf country’s ruler. A swearing-in ceremony will be held at parliament on Wednesday, al-Ghanem said.

Born on June 25, 1937 in the Kuwaiti capital, Nawaf began his political career when he was in his mid-20s, when he was appointed governor of the Hawalli province.

Nawaf later held several ministerial positions, including interior, defence and social affairs, before he was named crown prince in 2006, shortly after Sabah was named as leader.

Nawaf has five children, according to his website.

The Cabinet announced a 40-day mourning period in the country. Public offices will be shut for three days.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kuwait’s state television stopped its usual programmes to broadcast a recital of verses from the Koran, a common move in Muslim-dominated countries when the head of state dies.

Minutes later, an announcer read the brief official statement before the Koran recital resumed, along with a black and white photo of the emir on screen.

“With great sadness and sorrow, we mourn to the Kuwaiti people, the Arab and Islamic nations, and the friendly peoples of the world, the death of His Highness Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber Al Sabah, the emir of the State of Kuwait,” read the statement.

Afterwards, the official KUNA news agency tweeted a photo of the emir alongside the words: “Farewell, the prince of humanity.”

Although Kuwait has one of the Arab world’s most active parliaments, the emir retains the most power, including the right to appoint the government.

Sabah’s rule was marked by efforts to calm regional disputes. He maintained good ties with Iran, which is considered a rival by many nations in the Gulf, and maintained ties to Qatar when several other Gulf nations severed ties dramatically in 2017.

Regional leaders paid tribute to the emir.

“Today we lost a great brother and a wise leader,” Jordan’s King Abdullah said, as he announced a 40-day mourning period in the kingdom starting on Tuesday.

Leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt also paid tribute to Sabah, saying he was a great leader. Both announced a three-day mourning period.

Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed praised the Kuwaiti leader, and his “achievements and endeavours” to serve his country and the region.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels also paid tribute to Sabah.

“We do not forget his position supporting peace consultations and he used to express his love for Yemen in every meeting,” Houthi spokesman, Mohamed Abdul-Salam wrote on Twitter. Sabah was respected and appreciated for his attempts to end the war, Abdul-Salam added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also expressed his sorrow and condolences for Sabah’s death, in a tweet in Arabic.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described Sabah as “an extraordinary symbol of wisdom and generosity, a messenger of peace, a bridge builder.”

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