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Kuwait swears in new emir after death of ruler

AFP

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Kuwait's Crown Prince Sheik Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah attends the closing session of the 25th Arab Summit in Bayan Palace in Kuwait City on Wednesday, March 26, 2014
AP / Nasser Waggi 2014 ©Kuwait's Crown Prince Sheik Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah attends the closing session of the 25th Arab Summit in Bayan Palace in Kuwait City on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah died in the US on Tuesday at the age of 91

Kuwait on Wednesday swore in its new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, after the death of his half-brother, Sheikh Sabah, who died in the US at the age of 91.  

Sheikh Nawaf, 83, was sworn in at the National Assembly in Kuwait City, as the country prepared to receive the body of the late Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

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The body of Al-Sabah, an acclaimed diplomat and mediator who ruled for 14 years, is expected to arrive in Kuwait City later on Wednesday. He died the day before in Minnesota where he had been undergoing treatment in hospital since July.

According to the royal court, the funeral will be "restricted to the emir's relatives" -- a move likely designed to avoid large crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sheikh Sabah earned a reputation as a shrewd, unshakable leader who helped steer his country through the 1990 Iraqi invasion, crashes in global oil markets and upheavals in parliament and on the streets.

World leaders and Kuwaitis alike have hailed the legacy of the late emir, architect of the nation's modern foreign policy and mediator in some of the worst crises to grip the Gulf.

Sheikh Nawaf, who has held high office for decades, takes over with Kuwait facing the repercussions of the coronavirus crisis, which triggered a sharp decline in oil prices and severe economic consequences for Gulf states.

The new leader is popular within the ruling Al-Sabah family and is reported to have been a consensus choice for ruler. He also enjoys a reputation for modesty and has largely maintained a low profile.

Major policy changes are not expected during his reign, even after the Gulf underwent a seismic shift with Kuwait's neighbors, the UAE and Bahrain, opting to establish relations with Israel.

Normalization with the Jewish state is highly unpopular among the Kuwaiti public, which largely supports the Arab world's historic position of demanding a resolution of the Palestinian cause before giving diplomatic concessions to Israel. 

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