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ABU DHABI - PROFILE - Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

The eldest ruler in the GCC and one of the longest serving heads of state in the Middle East, Shaikh Zayed is getting close to 83. He assumed power in Abu Dhabi in 1966. In recent years he has detached himself from matters related to hydrocarbons or other local sectors, having delegated power to those directly in charge. However, Shaikh Zayed does take decisions on any matter when he deems necessary or when others request his intervention.

When it comes to delicate matters of diplomacy, whether domestic or foreign, Shaikh Zayed may intervene. It was he who offered Abu Dhabi gas to Dubai in 1996. The offer culminated in a final gas supply agreement signed in February 1998. It was part of a wide-ranging pact which led to the integration of Dubai's armed forces with the federal command of Abu Dhabi in 1997 and an accord in 1998 to eliminate industrial duplication between the two emirates - a move that benefited the UAE as a whole.

Known in the Arab World and beyond for his wise leadership, Shaikh Zayed was the architect behind the UAE, being its first and only president until now. His leadership is credited for keeping the federation intact, at times setting aside the interests of Abu Dhabi in favour of the UAE.

The little Shaikh Zayed knows about the oil and gas sector is enough to make him an effective trouble-shooter both at home and abroad, as well as in the Supreme Council of UAE rulers, which he heads. Over the past decade Shaikh Zayed has been astute in putting the younger members of the ruling family, mainly his sons and sons-in-law, into decision making roles and in delegating power among those of his aides and cousins who have remained in charge of the oil and financial sectors. This process had begun in early June 1988 when he authorised Crown Prince Khalifa Bin Zayed to decree the setting up of the SPC.

Shaikh Zayed is the head of the Bani Sultan Group. This refers to the sons of the late Shaikh Sultan who ruled Abu Dhabi between 1922-27 and was killed by one of his brothers in complex fratricidal intrigues that lasted many years. Of Sultan's four sons only the youngest, Zayed, is alive. Shakhbut, the eldest who ruled from 1928 to 1966, died in February 1989. Hazaa' and Khalid died earlier. Now the definition of Bani Sultan is given to the issues of Sultan's sons and daughters allied to Zayed.

Zayed was born in Al Ain, capital of the Eastern Province, in 1916 (some put the date as 1918) as the son of Abu Dhabi's 8th ruler Shaikh Sultan and grandson of "Zayed the Great", the 5th ruler from 1855 to 1909. His mother, Shaikha Salima, belonged to the Qubaisat Tribe. In the early 1960s Zayed was engaged in a power-struggle with his erratic brother Shakhbut, who was then the ruler.

In 1946, Shakhbut had to name Zayed formally as governor of the Eastern Province. Until then he was only the ruler's "representative". It took Zayed 20 years to command the loyalty of the bedouin tribesmen who were generally unruly and belligerent towards any form of central authority. It was mainly because he resisted Shakhbut's central but erratic rule that Zayed won the loyalty of the local tribes.

From 1946 to 1966, Zayed lived exclusively with the bedouins. He shared their poverty and, asserting himself by the force of his character as a bedouin, he developed rare diplomatic skills. He was opposed to the behaviour of Shakhbut. On Aug.y6, 1966, after a "palace revolution", Zayed succeeded Shakhbut as the 11th ruler of Abu Dhabi and had the support of the head of the family council, Shaikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa, father of Shaikhs Hamdan, Mubarak, Tahnoun, Saif, Surour and others (see his detailed profile in APS Review's Gas Market Trends, Vol. 52, No. 4).
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Publication:APS Diplomat Operations in Oil Diplomacy
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Mar 27, 2000
Previous Article:ABU DHABI - The Decision Making Structure.
Next Article:ABU DHABI - PROFILE - Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

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