15 February 2006

In a smooth, open and participatory transition of power in the state of Kuwait, a popularly-elected Parliament confirmed Sheikh Sabah Al Almed Al Jaber Al Subah as the new Emir. The new ruler is well known at United Nations Headquarters in New York since he raised his country's flag as a member in 1962. He has since attended every session of the General Assembly, making him the longest serving Minister of Foreign Affairs in the world. Even after he became Prime Minister, the smiling amenable Sheikh Sabah made a point of attending at least the opening few days of each session. Particularly when Kuwait was a non-permanent Security Council member in 1978, he played a distinguished role in working for consensus decisions on delicate issues and unanimity on resolutions. Under his guidance, the country played a pivotal role in advancing economic and social development through the galaxy of U.N. programs and agencies. Equally pleasant and thorough, Sheikh Sabah gained many friends for his country. His unflinching support for the United Nations as a symbol of international legitimacy proved most valuable when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Mobilizing all resources, under the guidance of the late Emir, his strategy was to sharpen the focus on the United Nations role. An unanimous position, fully backed by the five permanent members, authorized Desert Storm in which several Arab countries like Syria, Saudi Arabia and Qatar actively participated under the U.N. flag.

As Prime Minister, he proved to be a practical reformer, a modernist who worked with members of parliament to pass modernizing steps carefully yet surely. One of his most striking measures was in ensuring equal rights for women; it was rejected at first by parliament but, with enlightened persistence, eventually approved. His progressive hand was noted in recently designating Ms. Nabeela Al Mulla as Permanent Representative of Kuwait to the U.N. -- the first female Arab Ambassador in New York.