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UAE - Shaikh Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qassimi.

The ruler of Sharjah since January 1972, Shaikh Sultan is a pragmatist when it comes to business. He has turned his emirate into a business centre complementing that of Dubai. He is in alliance with Dubai's ruling Maktoum family. He lost his son, Muhammed bin Sultan, who died in London on April 3, 1999, aged 24. He was head of the ruler's office. Rumours had it that he died of drug overdose.

Shaikh Sultan has become an Islamist under the influence of Saudi Arabia's Wahhabism, and has imposed strict Muslim rules particularly on women, as Iran has insisted on maintaining control over the islands of Abu Musa and the two Tunbs. It is said that Shaikh Sultan has become more conservative after 9/11. There are rumours that the flow of Saudi money into Sharjah has increased since then, with Shaikh Sultan said to be counting on Riyadh's support for pressure on Iran over the islands.

Sharjah's Supreme Petroleum Council (SPC) is the highest authority for decisions in the hydrocarbon sector. Created by Shaikh Sultan's decree in Oct. 1999, the SPC has taken over the role of the Department of Petroleum and Minerals which was disbanded. Shaikh Sultan initiates the SPC decisions.

In November 1999 he decreed the creation of Sharjah's Executive Council to plan economic and security policies. Its task was "to ensure that all public departments work to achieve the interests of the community", said the statement from the ruler's office. In February 2000, he decreed a ban on smoking in all public and state buildings in the emirate with immediate effect.

Shaikh Sultan was toppled but quickly reinstated during a brief power struggle with his elder brother, Shaikh Abdel Aziz, in July 1987. Although the latter then became crown prince and deputy ruler, Sultan on Feb. 4, 1990 stripped Abdel Aziz of all his powers. In the power struggle, Sultan received support from the powerful Muhammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai.

Born in 1939, Shaikh Sultan is the fourth of six sons of the late Muhammad bin Khalid. Until Shaikh Maktoum took over in Dubai in 1990, Shaikh Sultan had been the most educated among the UAE rulers, having graduated from Cairo University with a degree in agriculture. During the 1980s Shaikh Sultan gained a doctorate from Exeter University in Britain. He began as a teacher in the Sharjah Technical Training School in the early 1960s. After leaving Cairo University in 1965, he co-operated closely with his elder brother, then ruler of Sharjah the late Shaikh Khalid bin Muhammad. He became UAE minister of education in 1971-72. After the assassination of his brother Shaikh Khalid in January 1972, Shaikh Sultan was unanimously elected ruler by the family council. The assassination was a coup attempt by his cousin Shaikh Saqr bin Sultan, of the "Bani Sultan" branch, whom Khalid had toppled in the 1960s.

The hydrocarbon sector provides Sharjah with about 80% of its income. A part of Sharjah's gas production is exported by pipeline to Dubai, with the federal entity Emarat taking some gas to the other northern emirates.

In April 1985, after many years of tension with Dubai, Shaikh Sultan and Dubai's Muhammad Bin Rashid reached a wide-ranging political pact. This not only ended one of the most complex territorial disputes in the UAE but also brought about an alliance between the rulers of the two emirates and a long-term gas deal. From Shaikh Sultan's standpoint, as his brother Abdel Aziz was opposed to the pact, the gas deal with Dubai proved to be a more credible source of revenue for Sharjah than the contract with Emarat.

Shaikh Ahmad bin Sultan al-Qassimi, a cousin of the ruler, is chairman of the SPC. He is also the deputy ruler. Before the SPC was created in 1999, Ahmad headed the Department of Petroleum and Minerals which was abolished. Ahmad was made deputy ruler in late June 1990, four months after Shaikh Sultan dismissed his elder brother Abdel Aziz as crown prince and deputy ruler.

Sultan bin Ahmad bin Sultan al-Qassimi, another cousin, is deputy chairman of the SPC. Both belong to the "Bani Sultan", a branch which once ruled Sharjah.

Shaikh Muhammad bin Salim al-Qassimi, an influential member of the ruling family's "Bani Salim" branch which once ruled both Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah and controlled parts of other Trucial States, has been the president of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry for years. The chamber has more than 11,000 members - including about 2,000 in the business centre of Khor Fakkan, on the Indian Ocean.

Muhammad took up this post in late 1987, after the former head of the chamber Abdel Aziz became crown prince (but the latter was ousted in February 1990). This marked a new stage in sharing the rule in Sharjah between the "Bani Muhammad" and "Bani Salim" branches of the numerous al-Qassimi family (also known as al-Qawassim).

Ras al-Khaimah's Decision Makers: The power base of the Bani Salim branch in Ras al Khaimah (RaK) collapsed in 1948, when Shaikh Sultan bin Salim died. RaK now is controlled by one branch of the family: the "Bani Muhammad" group (not to be confused with the ruling "Bani Muhammad" of Sharjah). There are several other branches of the Qassimi family in RaK.

Shaikh Saqr bin Muhammad al-Qassimi has been the ruler of RaK since 1948, when he took over from the once powerful "Bani Salim" branch of the family. Born in 1920, his father had led one of the branches of the Qawasim that had claims to RaK since the turn of the century.

By 1948 Saqr had mastered the techniques of tribal warfare, having led the military campaign to take over power and driven the brothers and sons of the late Sultan bin Salim out of RaK. Since then he has run the emirate virtually as a private property, giving the other Qawasim branches little or no political power. He is married to the daughter of the chief of the Ghurair clan of Dubai, which in the 1950s and 1960s used to be one of the wealthiest merchant groups in the Gulf. He married his son Khalid to the daughter of another wealthy merchant. Through such alliances he has drawn rich investors from Dubai and other Gulf countries to his emirate. In April 2004, he married his young son Ahmad to a Ghurair daughter.

Shaikh Saqr personally negotiates with foreign companies for oil or gas concessions. But no major hydrocarbon deposits have been found in the emirate so far. His first son, Khalid born in 1940, was in 2004 demoted from the post of crown prince. His second, Sultan born in 1944, was also demoted from the post of deputy ruler.

Instead, Shaikh Saqr made a younger son Saud crown prince and deputy ruler. While Khalid has studied economics, Sultan is a military man commanding the local army. His third son, Faisal, is the CEO of the RaK National Oil Co. Shaikh Saud is said to be an exceptionally capable young man.

Ajman - Shaikh Humaid bin Rashid al-Nu'aimi, the ruler, was born in 1930 as the favoured son of Shaikh Rashid. He became active in the affairs of state as Ajman joined the UAE in December 1971 and became deputy ruler. His elder brother Ali was sidelined. In 1975 his father ceased functioning as ruler and Humaid took over. His son Ammar bin Humaid is the current crown prince of Ajman.

The Nu'aimi clan is not as numerous as the ruling families of the other UAE emirates. The prominent members of this clan are the sons of the former ruler Shaikh Rashid. Rashid bin Abdullah al-Nu'aimi, the UAE foreign minister in his 50s, is a key figure in federal politics.

Umm al-Quwain - Shaikh Rashid bin Ahmad al-Mu'alla, the ruler since 1981 after the abdication of his father, was close to the late Shaikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi. But he is also close to the new UAE President and Abu Dhabi ruler Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed. The ruling family of this emirate, referred to as the "Bani Ahmad" group, gets special attention in federal funding for local projects. Rashid's son Saud is the crown prince. Shaikh Sultan bin Ahmad al-Mu'alla, a cousin of the ruler, is the chairman of the Umm al Quwain (UaQ) Petroleum Department.

Shaikh Humaid Ahmad al-Mu'alla, the federal planning minister for years, has long been close to the late Shaikh Zayed and to Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed.

Fujairah - Shaikh Hamad bin Muhammad al-Sharqi, in power since 1974, is the first ruler in the UAE to be appointed by a federal decree rather than by family acclaim, thanks to lobbying by Shaikh Zayed. Shaikh Hamad and his younger brother Saleh, forming the "Bani Muhammad" branch, control the local government.

Born in 1949 as the first son of the ruler of Fujairah, Shaikh Hamad is a staunch supporter of the federation. When the UAE was established in late 1971 he was made federal minister of agriculture and fisheries.

Shaikh Hamad bin Said al-Sharqi, a powerful figure in Fujairah, is his cousin and the deputy ruler.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Dec 26, 2005
Previous Article:UAE - Sharjah's Decision Makers.
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