Sultan Qaboos bin Said

MUSCAT/KUWAIT: Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said, one of the Middle East’s longest serving rulers who maintained the country’s neutrality in regional struggles, died on Friday and his cousin Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said was named as his successor in a smooth transition. With his death, the region loses a trusted and seasoned leader, seen as the father of modern Oman, who balanced ties between two neighbors locked in a regional struggle, Saudi Arabia to the west and Iran to the north, as well as the United States.

In a televised speech, Sultan Haitham promised to uphold Muscat’s policy of peaceful coexistence and friendly relations with all nations while further developing Oman. “We will continue to assist in resolving disputes peacefully,” he said. Oman and fellow Gulf states declared three days of official mourning with flags to be flown at half-mast for Sultan Qaboos. His funeral procession passed along Muscat’s main road amid tight security as Omanis thronged the palm tree-lined route, some reaching out their hands and others taking pictures.

The casket, draped in the Omani flag, was carried into Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque where hundreds joined prayers inside. Sultan Qaboos was later buried in a family cemetery. A family council convened yesterday and chose Haitham after opening a sealed envelope in which Qaboos had secretly written his recommendation in case the family could not agree, opting to follow his “wise” guidance, state media said.

HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent yesterday a cable of condolences to Sultan Haitham, lamenting the death of Sultan Qaboos. He expressed great grief over the passing of Sultan Qaboos, expressing his deep condolences to the Omani leadership and people. HH Sheikh Sabah said that the late Sultan Qaboos was a brother and a personal friend with whom he shared admiration and respect, affirming that the world as well as the Gulf, Arab and Islamic nations had lost a very important figure and leader who dedicated his life to the causes of the Arab and Islamic countries.

HH the Amir commended the achievements of Oman during the reign of Sultan Qaboos and also remembered the strong stance of Oman in support of Kuwait during the 1990 Iraqi invasion and subsequent participation of Omani forces in the liberation of Kuwait. Sheikh Sabah also recalled Sultan Qaboos’ aid of Kuwaiti citizens and his efforts to host them in Oman during occupation of Kuwait. HH the Amir affirmed his feelings of sorrow towards Sultan Haitham, the leadership of Oman and people. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables.

HH the Amir also ordered official mourning for three days from yesterday. All government institutions will shut down and the Kuwait flag will fly at half-mast for three days, according to a government statement read by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Interior and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh. The education ministry also announced all schools in Kuwait will remain closed till Monday. – Agencies