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United Arab Emirates leader described as 'stable' after suffering stroke, undergoing surgery

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The president of the United Arab Emirates has undergone emergency surgery after having a stroke and is in stable condition, the Ministry of Presidential Affairs said Saturday.

Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan suffered the stroke Friday morning, according to a ministry statement released to the official WAM news agency. It gave no indication of the severity of his illness.

"He immediately underwent a surgical operation. His health is now stable. May God safeguard him and grant him a quick recovery," the statement read.

Khalifa, 66, became president of the UAE in 2004, succeeding his father Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan after his death. His father was the UAE's first leader after it became an independent nation in 1971.

The UAE is a federation of seven semiautonomous sheikdoms that borders Saudi Arabia and Oman on the southern end of the Persian Gulf. It enjoys warm relations with the United States, Britain and other Western powers.

Khalifa has used the Emirates' vast oil wealth to make the OPEC member nation a regional economic powerhouse. The world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, bears his name.

The emirates have pursued increasingly tighter integration during Khalifa's presidency, helped by financial support from the capital, Abu Dhabi, which controls the bulk of the nation's oil reserves.

Like his father before him, Khalifa is the hereditary ruler of the emirate of Abu Dhabi in addition to being the UAE president. The ruler of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is vice-president and prime minister of the UAE federation.

Khalifa is also chairman of the powerful Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the world's largest sovereign wealth funds. It holds sizable stakes in banking giant Citigroup and London's Gatwick Airport.

Several of Khalifa's close relatives hold important positions within the Abu Dhabi leadership.

The Emirati foreign minister, Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, wished his half-brother well on his official Twitter account, asking God to "grant him health and wellness."

Another half-brother, Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and plays a major role in the running of the country. He is expected to eventually succeed Khalifa.

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Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Cairo contributed to this report.

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Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck.

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