UAE strongman Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed named new president

UAE strongman Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed named new president.

UAE strongman Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed

Abu Dhabis Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan speaks as he meets Britains Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Downing Street, London, Britain, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool

DUBAI, May 14 (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates de facto leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan was elected president of the Gulf Arab state by a federal supreme council on Saturday, solidifying his rule over the OPEC oil producer and key regional player. read more

He becomes president at a time when the UAEs long-standing ties with the United States have been strained over perceived U.S. disengagement from its Gulf allies security concerns and as Western countries seek support from the region to help isolate Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

The council, which groups the rulers of the seven emirates of the UAE federation, elected Sheikh Mohammed, known as MbZ, a day after the death of his half-brother, President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, who was also ruler of Abu Dhabi.

"We congratulate him and pledge allegiance to him as do our people," said Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also UAE vice-president and premier.

The UAE, a trade and tourism hub, has also deepened ties with Russia and China at a time when Washingtons political capital with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh has been eroded by differences over the Yemen war, Iran and U.S. conditions on arms sales.

"Mohammed bin Zayed has set not only the future course for the UAE but for much of the Gulf in his approach to state building and power projection," said Kristin Diwan, senior resident scholar at Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

The Biden administration has moved to mend ties with oil heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Both have refused to take sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and rebuffed Western calls to pump more oil to help tame crude prices. read more

President Joe Biden said in a statement on Saturday that he looked forward to working with Sheikh Mohammed "to build from this extraordinary foundation to further strengthen the bonds between our countries and peoples."

Vice President Kamala Harris will head a U.S. delegation to the UAE on Monday to offer condolences following Khalifas death and will meet with MbZ, press secretary Kirsten Allen said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Israeli President Isaac Herzog are due to arrive on Sunday. read more S8N2S7032

MbZ as president would not lead the UAE to break with the United States or other Western partners though he will diversify the countrys international partners, Emirati political scientist Abulkhaleq Abdulla told Reuters.

MbZ has shifted away from a hawkish foreign policy and military adventurism, that saw the UAE wade into conflicts from Yemen to Libya, to focus on economic priorities. This has seen the UAE engage with foes Iran and Turkey after years of animosity, as well as Syrias president.

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