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Bahrain Statesman PM dies at 84

Sacrificed his life for service to Kingdom: Amir

MANAMA, Nov 11, (AP): Bahrain’s Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, one of the world’s longest-serving prime ministers who led his island nation’s government for decades and survived the 2011 Arab Spring protests, died on Wednesday. He was 84. Bahrain’s state-run news agency announced his death, saying he had been receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic in the United States, without elaborating. The Mayo Clinic declined to comment

Prince Khalifa’s power and wealth could be seen everywhere in this small nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet. His official portrait hung for decades on walls alongside the country’s ruler. He had his own private island where he met foreign dignitaries, complete with a marina and a park that had peacocks and gazelle roam its grounds.

The prince represented an older style of Gulf leadership, one that granted patronage and favors for support of the Sunni Al Khalifa family. That style would be challenged in the 2011 protests by the island’s Shiite majority and others. Though less powerful and frailer in recent years, his machinations still drew attention in the Kingdom as a new generation now jostles for power.

“Khalifa bin Salman represented the old guard in more ways than just age and seniority,” said Kristin Smith Diwan, a senior resident scholar at the Washington-based Arab Gulf States Institute. “He represented an old social understanding rooted in royal privilege and expressed through personal patronage.” Bahrain’s Royal Court announced a week of official mourning, with a burial coming after the return of his body.

State television aired a recitation of Quranic verses, showing a black-and-white image of the prince. Prince Khalifa was born into the Al Khalifa dynasty that for more than two centuries has ruled Bahrain, an island in the Arabian Gulf whose name in Arabic means the “two seas”.

The son of Bahrain’s former ruler, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa who ruled from 1942 to 1961, the prince learned governance at his father’s side as the island remained a British protectorate. Prince Khalifa’s brother, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, took power in 1961 and served as monarch when Bahrain gained its independence from Britain in 1971.

Under an informal arrangement, Sheikh Isa handled the island’s diplomacy and ceremonial duties while Prince Khalifa ran the government and economy. The years that followed saw Bahrain develop rapidly as it sought to move beyond its dependence on dwindling oil reserves. Manama at that time served as what Dubai in the United Arab Emirates ultimately became, a regional financial, service and tourism hub.

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