Kuwait's ruler Emir Sheikh Sabah passes away

KUWAIT-EMIR/
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah
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Kuwait: Kuwait's ruling Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah has died said an official statement read out on state television on Tuesday.

Sheikh Sabah, 91, had ruled the Gulf Arab oil producer and U.S. ally since 2006 and steered its foreign policy for more than 50 years.

In a Middle East replete with elderly rulers, Sheikh Sabah stood out for his efforts at pushing for diplomacy to resolve a bitter dispute between Qatar and other Arab nations that continues to this day.

His 2006 ascension in Kuwait, a staunch U.S. ally since the American-led war that expelled occupying Iraqi troops, came after parliament voted unanimously to oust his predecessor, the ailing Sheikh Saad Al Abdullah Al Sabah, just nine days into his rule.

Yet as Kuwait's ruling emir, he struggled with internal political disputes, the fallout of the 2011 Arab Spring protests and seesawing crude oil prices that chewed into a national budget providing cradle-to-grave subsidies.

He represents the older generation of Gulf leaders who valued discretion and moderation and the importance of personal ties amongst fellow monarchs, said Kristin Diwan, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington who studies Kuwait.

No question he has suffered from the lack of deference and respect shown by the younger and more brash young princes holding power today. State television announced his death after playing Quranic prayers.

Sheikh Sabah is expected to be succeeded by his half brother, the crown prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

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