The President, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed, mourned the death of Qatar’s former ruler Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad Al Thani who passed away on Monday.
“The former emir was one of the pioneers of the GCC joint work who joined his fellow leaders in the establishment of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf and strengthening its march,” according to the Ministry of Presidential Affairs which conveyed the President’s condolences to the family of the deceased and the Qatari people.
The former emir of Qatar died on Sunday at the age of 84.
Three days of mourning was declared by the current emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad, who is the deceased ruler’s grandson.
State TV quickly cut from its regular programming, airing Quranic recitations late into the night after Qatar’s diwan announced his death.
Qatar’s Sheikh Khalifa was replaced in 1995 by his son, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa, while he was on holiday in Switzerland.
Sheikh Hamad, then defence minister, said at the time that seizing power was necessary because of unspecified “difficult circumstances” and internal issues facing the country.
As Sheikh Hamad had long been seen as the real power in Qatar, the surprise move was in many ways little more than a formality.
Sheikh Khalifa oversaw a rapid modernisation of his country, which accelerated after it began to exploit vast reserves of natural gas that have turned it into one of the world’s richest nation’s per capita.
Qatar banded together with five of its neighbours to form the Gulf Cooperation Council during his rule.
After Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein invaded nearby Kuwait in 1990, Sheikh Khalifa joined other Arab leaders in making his country’s military facilities available to the US-led coalition assembled to liberate Kuwait. US, Canadian and French fighter planes flew missions from Qatar during the conflict.
His country reached a security pact with the US shortly after the Gulf War, and today hosts the forward headquarters of the US Central Command along with aircraft involved in air strikes against ISIL militants in Syria and Iraq.
The ruler had come to power by dethroning his cousin 23 years earlier.
Although Sheikh Khalifa vowed to return to power after he was ousted, at “whatever the cost”, he spent the next several years living in Europe and did not return to his homeland until 2004. He kept a low profile until his death.
* Wam and Associated Press