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UAE president designates his eldest son as crown prince of Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates, has appointed his eldest son Khaled as crown prince of Abu Dhabi, placing him next in line to take over as the leader of the federation.

The state-run WAM news agency announced the appointment of Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Wednesday as crown prince, without providing further details.

After Sheikh Mohammed, 62, ascended to the presidency last year, rumours swirled about whether he would make one of his brothers his heir.

In that case, the front-runners would have been Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, the powerful national security chief, Sheikh Mansour, the owner of the Manchester City football club, or the Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah.

A separate announcement said Sheikh Mohammed had appointed Sheikh Mansour as vice president of the UAE with the approval of the Federal Supreme Council.

Sheikh Tahnoun and another brother, Sheikh Hazza, were appointed deputy rulers of Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Khaled, 41, the new crown prince, has risen to prominence at the country’s state security service and as chairman of the powerful Abu Dhabi Executive Office.

Yemen war and ties with Israel

The United Arab Emirates, a close US ally, is best known as the home of Dubai, a major international hub for business and travel.

The federation of seven emirates, including oil-rich Abu Dhabi, has rapidly transformed itself over the past half-century from a desert region sparsely populated by Bedouin tribes into a political and economic powerhouse with state-of-the-art infrastructure, including the world’s tallest skyscraper.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the UAE and the driving force behind its creation, governed from 1971 until his death in 2004. He appointed his eldest son Khalifa as his successor and Sheikh Mohammed as deputy crown prince.

Sheikh Mohammed has been the nation’s de facto leader since Sheikh Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014.

Sheikh Khalifa, for whom the world’s largest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, is named, died eight years later, in May 2022.

During Sheikh Mohammed’s governance, the UAE cultivated close ties with neighbouring Saudi Arabia, initially joining it in its war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels before largely exiting the conflict years later.

In 2020, the UAE normalised ties with Israel in the first of the so-called Abraham Accords, followed by Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — decisions rejected by Palestine’s leadership. 

The UAE hosts some 3,500 US troops, many at Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra Air Base, from where drones and fighter jets flew missions combating Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

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