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DUBAI: World leaders descended on the United Arab Emirates on Sunday to offer condolences to new leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan on the death of his half-brother President Khalifa bin Zayed in a show of support to a key regional player.

Sheikh Mohammed, now ruler of wealthy Abu Dhabi emirate, steered the Western-allied Gulf state, an OPEC oil producer and regional business hub, for years before being named the UAE’s third president by a federal supreme council on Saturday.

French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country holds lucrative business and military ties with the UAE, told Sheikh Mohammed in Abu Dhabi that the UAE could “count on France’s friendship” and discussed the Ukraine conflict, the Elysee said.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said before heading to the Emirati capital that the establishment of ties between the UAE and Israel two years ago was an asset for the whole region built by “bold and groundbreaking leaders”, including Khalifa.

The UAE, along with Bahrain, upended decades of Arab consensus by forging relations with Israel, creating a new anti-Iran axis in the region and drawing Palestinian ire.

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