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January 12, 2020

Oman’s Sultan Qaboos dies

Top Story

January 12, 2020

MUSCAT: Sultan Qaboos, the longest-reigning leader of the modern Arab world, has died at the age of 79, the royal court said Saturday."With great sorrow and deep sadness... the royal court mourns His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who passed away on Friday," the court said in a statement.

Qaboos, who has ruled since 1970 when he deposed his father in a palace coup, had been ill for some time and had been believed to be suffering from colon cancer. He left no apparent heir. He was unmarried and had no children or brothers.

Qaboos transformed the Arabian Peninsula nation from a backwater into a modern state while pursuing a moderate but active foreign policy. Having played a role in Iran´s nuclear deal with world powers while preserving its membership in the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council, Oman has emerged as the Gulf’s discreet mediator.

"He was a stable force in the Middle East and a strong US ally. His Majesty had a vision for a modern, prosperous, and peaceful Oman, and he willed that vision into reality," former US president George W Bush said in a message of condolences paying tribute to Qaboos.

Haitham bin Tariq, the culture minister, was sworn as new ruler in shortly after Sultan Qaboos was laid to rest. He pledged to follow the non-interference policy that made the kingdom a vital regional mediator under his late cousin Sultan Qaboos.

"We will follow the path of the late sultan," Haitham, 65, said in his first public speech which was aired live on state television. He expressed support for "our country´s foreign policy of peaceful living among nations and peoples... and not interfering in the internal affairs of others, respecting nations´ sovereignty and international cooperation."

"Haitham bin Tariq was sworn in as the new sultan of the country... after a meeting of the family which decided to appoint the one who was chosen by the sultan," the government said in a tweet.

Many experts had expected the throne to go to Asad bin Tariq, another cousin, who was appointed deputy prime minister for international relations and cooperation affairs in 2017 in what was seen as a clear message of support. However, analysts said the swift handover boded well for a smooth succession, at a time of heightened regional tensions with the United States facing off against Iran.

Sultan Qaboos was laid to rest at the royal cemetery on Saturday after his coffin, draped in the Omani flag, was driven through the streets of the capital Muscat. Thousands of people, including members of the royal family and state officials, were present for prayers at the main mosque which is named after the sultan. The royal court announced a mourning period that will see businesses and government offices close for three days. -- AFP

Our correspondent adds from Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan termed late Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman as a visionary leader while extending the deepest condolences to the people of Oman, who had lost their beloved leader.

The prime minister said Sultan Qaboos was a close and trusted friend of Pakistan, whose soul may rest in eternal peace.

He tweeted, “I extend our deepest condolences to people of Oman on the passing of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said. He was a visionary & transformed Oman into a vibrant, modern state. Oman has lost a beloved leader & Pakistan a close, trusted friend. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”

Separately, Senate Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani expressed deep grief and condolences on the demise of Sultan Qaboos. He said in a message that “we are deeply saddened and with the passing away of Sultan Qaboos, Pakistan has lost a sincere friend and Muslim has lost a visionary leader”.

He paid glowing tributes to the contributions made by Sultan Qaboos towards the social and economic development of Oman. He said that people, Parliament and government of Pakistan mourn the demise of Sultan Qaboos.

Deputy Chairman Senate Saleem Mandviwalla, Leader of the House in the Senate Shibli Faraz and Leader of the Opposition in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq also expressed their condolences.