San Francisco Chronicle

World leaders to honor late ruler

- By Isabel Debre Isabel Debre is an Associated Press writer.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An array of presidents and prime ministers continued to descend on the United Arab Emirates Sunday from around the world to pay their respects to the federation’s late ruler. They also came to praise his successor, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan — a vivid sign of Abu Dhabi’s influence in Western and Arab capitals.

The first Western leader to jet to the oil-rich emirate was French President Emmanuel Macron. He met Sunday with Sheikh Mohammed to pay tribute to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the long-ailing ruler who died Friday at the age of 73 after years presiding over the country’s rapid transforma­tion into a global business hub and regional power center.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to arrive Sunday to offer condolence­s, along with other leaders including Israel’s president after the two countries opened formal relations in 2020.

An American delegation led by Vice President Kamala Harris is due to visit the UAE on Monday, a bid to ease tensions and show support as relations between the countries have strained under President Biden.

“He was respected by all for the values of peace, openness and dialogue that he embodied,” Macron wrote on Twitter of Sheikh Khalifa, expressing “full support” for the ascension of his halfbrothe­r Sheikh Mohammed after rulers in the federation unanimousl­y appointed him as president.

As crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed has served as the nation’s de facto leader since Sheikh Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014. He has turned the small UAE — population 10 million — into a most influentia­l state. With Abu Dhabi’s petrodolla­rs and substantia­l military along with Dubai’s major firms and glitzy hotels, the UAE has come to wield outsize power across the Middle East and Africa.

Even as the country became entangled in the bloody, years-long conflict in Yemen and a chaotic proxy war in Libya, it positioned itself as a savvy and reliable partner in Western capitals.

Paris and Abu Dhabi have become increasing­ly aligned in recent years, sharing a deep mistrust of Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhoo­d across the region.

Sheikh Mohammed’s assertive foreign policy in the Arab world was on stark display as allied leaders rushed to the capital on Saturday to express sorrow over Sheikh Khalifa’s death and congratula­te Sheikh Mohammed on his formal ascension to power.

Among the first was Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the Egyptian general who, with Gulf Arab support, overthrew an elected but divisive Islamist government in 2013.

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