Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah no more: Nation declares 40 days of mourning

KUWAIT CITY (KUWAIT) – Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah died on Tuesday at the age of 91, plunging the oil-rich state into mourning. The Emir is considered a savvy diplomatic operator and a humanitarian advocate by many Arabs in the region.

The Kuwaiti cabinet announced that the deceased Emir’s brother and designated successor Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah would be the new ruler in a televised statement. He is slated to be sworn in on Wednesday.

Sheikh Sabah has been at the helm of affairs since 2006, and was instrumental in controlling its foreign policy for more than five decades.

“With hearts filled with pain and sadness for the Kuwaiti people, the Islamic and Arab world and nations of the world, and with faith in the will of God, the cabinet mourns … Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah who died in the United States on Tuesday,” read the statement.

His body will be flown in on Wednesday from the United States, where he had been admitted in hospital since July after undergoing surgery in his home country.

According to the minister of the Amiri Diwan, the funeral will be attended by only relatives because of the public health requirements.

Kuwait has declared 40 days of mourning and flags are flying at half-mast. “Goodbye, Emir of Humanity,” read a large banner near the Kuwait Stock Exchange. The iconic Kuwait Towers, which is usually illuminated at night, went dark.

Sheikh Sabah took efforts to have close ties with the country’s biggest neighbour Saudi Arabia and rebuilding links with its former occupier Iraq while engaged in a dialogue with Iran as well.

When Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed sanctions on Qatar, the late Emir tried to mediate. He was also instrumental in making fundraising for humanitarian aid in Syria a top national priority.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in an Arabic tweet said that the deceased leader fostered “moderation and balance” in Kuwait as well as the region.

“Today we lost a big brother and a wise and loving leader … who spared no effort for Arab unity,” tweeted Jordanian ruler King Abdullah.

​Sabah forged close ties with the US, which prompted Washington to lead a coalition to end the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91 and it also used the state to launch its Iraq invasion in 2003.

In a statement, US President Donald Trump said he was sad to hear of the demise of a dear friend and called the Emir an “unwavering friend and partner to the United States”.

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