By ADAM SCHRECK, Associated Press
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The health of the president of the United Arab Emirates is "stable and reassuring," following a stroke he suffered last month, according to a top official in the Gulf federation.
The comments by Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, carried by state news agency WAM late on Monday, were a rare update on the health of Emirati President Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who underwent surgery shortly after falling ill on Jan. 24.
"The president's state of health is stable and reassuring," the Abu Dhabi crown prince, Sheik Mohammed, was quoted as saying. "His Highness Sheik Khalifa is fine. Yes, we have passed through difficult moments, but we have been able, thanks to God, to pass beyond them."
Sheik Mohammed plays a key role in the leadership of the UAE and its largest emirate, Abu Dhabi, which serves as the federation's capital. He is next in line to succeed Khalifa, his half-brother.
Khalifa, 66, has not been seen in public since his illness was reported by state media a day after he fell ill. His condition has been described as stable, though officials have not disclosed the severity of his illness.
He became president of the UAE in 2004 after the death of his father, Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was the UAE's first leader after it became an independent nation in 1971. He is also the hereditary ruler of Abu Dhabi and chairman of the powerful Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the world's largest sovereign wealth funds.
The world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, another of the UAE's seven emirates, bears his name.
Sheik Mohammed also sought to downplay a diplomatic rift with nearby Qatar, highlighting what he called "strong brotherly ties" between the OPEC member states.
The UAE on Sunday announced it had summoned Qatar's ambassador to protest the comments of an outspoken, Qatar-based cleric, Egyptian-born Youssef el-Qaradawi, after he criticized the UAE's policies toward Islamist groups. The Emirates supports the military-backed regime in Egypt and has jailed Islamists and shut down the Muslim Brotherhood's branch in the UAE.
Qatar has also tried to move past the dispute. Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled bin Mohammed al-Attiyah told broadcaster Al-Jazeera that relations with the UAE are "at the highest level. And the differences between the states on some issues and matters are settled through the normal channels."
Associated Press writer Abdullah Rebhy in Doha, Qatar, contributed reporting.
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