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Kuwaiti emir dies at 77

From CNNArabic.com Editor Caroline Faraj

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Sheik Jaber, shown in this 1997 file photo, came to power in December 1977.

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Kuwait

(CNN) -- Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, a key U.S. ally in the war against Iraq and a notable supporter of women's rights in the tiny Gulf country, died Sunday, according to a government statement. He was 77.

The emir had led the nation since 1977, but had been treated for heart problems and other health issues in recent years.

The emir's successor will be Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah, formerly the crown prince, the government announced at a Cabinet meeting. The new emir has one year to announce who will be the new crown prince.

The official mourning period for the late emir will be 40 days, and the government will shut down for three days in his honor, the statement said.

The emir survived a 1985 assassination attempt that stemmed from his support of Iraq in the country's war with Iran. He also faced troubled times in 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

The emir also supported giving women full political rights.

While the emir was loved among the people, neither he nor his successor has been active in government for the past few years, leaving that job to Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and the Parliament.

The emir's death could be a signal of major changes to come in the country.

The emir was the 13th ruler of a 245-year-old dynasty which has ruled Kuwait since the Anaiza tribe, to which the Al-Sabahs belonged, migrated from the Arabian hinterland, Reuters reported.

Kuwait, a founding OPEC member, enjoys one of the world's highest standards of living despite its reliance on oil exports, unpredictable oil income and huge losses from the 1990-1991 Iraq occupation.

The Gulf state sits on one-tenth of the world's crude oil reserves, or 95 billion barrels, according to Reuters.

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