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UAE founder Nahyan dies, aged 90

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, a friend of the United States.
United Arab Emirates
Colin Powell
Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan

ABU DHABI, UAE (CNN) -- After ailing for many years, United Arab Emirates president and founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan has died Tuesday, according to his office. He was about 90.

The cause of death was not revealed.

Nahyan had skipped Arab summits for some time because of his ill health. He had a kidney transplant in August 2000.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a son of Nahyan, will automatically take over as ruler of the capital, after being designated previously by his father.

Under the UAE constitution, Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, will act as president until the federal council, which represents rulers of the seven emirates, meets within 30 days to elect a new president.

Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi since 1966, was the founding leader of the United Arab Emirates, which he had ruled since the seven emirates forged a union and received independence from Britain in 1971.

Beginning in the late 1960s, the oil boom transformed Abu Dhabi into a cosmopolitan city, and prompted politically ambitious Nahyan family members to settle in the capital, where many of them obtained positions in the expanding emirate and federal bureaucracies.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell issued a statement mourning Nahyan, "whose vision and leadership united seven independent emirates into one nation."

"Sheikh Zayed was a friend. He stood both at home and abroad as a symbol of benevolent and wise leadership characterized by generosity, tolerance, and avid pursuit of development and modernization," the statement said.

"We will miss Sheikh Zayed's friendship and send our deepest sympathy to his family, friends, and the people of the United Arab Emirates."

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