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VP Kamala Harris, high-powered U.S. delegation visits UAE to honor late leader

By Ashley Williams & Adam Schrader
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VP Kamala Harris, high-powered U.S. delegation visits UAE to honor late leader
Vice President Kamala Harris said before she left for the UAE that she planned to underscore the significance of relations between the United States and the Middle Eastern nation. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

May 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris led a high-powered delegation to the United Arab Emirates on Monday to honor the country's late ruler, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and support its new president.

Sheikh Khalifa died on Friday at age 73 after serving as UAE leader for close to two decades.

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On Monday, Harris left the United States to fly to Abu Dhabi with several top-ranking administration officials -- including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, CIA Director William Burns and climate czar John Kerry.

In Abu Dhabi, Harris met with the UAE's new president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan -- Sheikh Khalifa's half-brother, according to a White House transcript of her remarks.

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"I am here leading the presidential delegation on behalf of the president and the American people and our administration to express our condolences to a friend and to a partner, the United Arab Emirates," Harris said from Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Harris said she was also in Abu Dhabi to express her congratulations to the new president and "to reaffirm the shared commitment we have to security and prosperity in this region."

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"We were here to discuss the strength of that partnership and that friendship and our commitment, going forward, to continue to work at the strength of that relationship," Harris said.

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In a readout of her visit, Harris said that the late leader was a "good friend" to several U.S. presidential administrations, having succeeded to the post in 2004 while President George W. Bush led the United States.

"Laura and I mourn the passing of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, the founder of the modern United Arab Emirates," Bush said in a statement last week.

"Under his leadership and vision, the UAE became an economic power and a force for peace in the Middle East. We send our sympathies to our friend, Sheikh Mohamed, and to their family and all Emeratis."

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Sheikh Mohammed had been the country's crown prince before ascending to the presidency, but observers say that he's been the de facto ruler since Sheikh Khalifa's stroke in 2014.

Harris' visit Monday is the most high-profile to the UAE by members of U.S. President Joe Biden's administration.

"His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan was a true friend of the United States," Blinken's office said in a statement. "We deeply valued his support in building the extraordinary partnership our countries enjoy today."

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Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the U.S., thanked Harris for her visit in a statement to Twitter.

"The UAE is deeply appreciative to @VP Harris and the entire US delegation for making the trip to the UAE," he said.

"It is a meaningful and appreciated gesture of kindness and friendship. I look forward to receiving the delegation tomorrow in Abu Dhabi."

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