Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the longest serving Arab leader, has died at 79


By Amir Vera and Taylor Barnes, CNN : Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who ruled Oman since 1970, died on Friday night, according to a series of tweets from the official Oman News Agency.
He was 79, according to the outlet. The Omani government declared three days of national mourning.
State media hailed Qaboos for his "wise and triumphant march full of tenderness that covered Oman from one extreme to the other, and extended all across the Arab, Islamic and international worlds and resulted in a balanced policy that the whole world respected."
The US Embassy in Muscat, Oman's capital, tweeted Friday that the US "is deeply saddened" by Qaboos' death.
"We have lost one of the world's great leaders -- a visionary responsible for Oman's prosperity and progress for the last half century," the embassy's tweet read. "His steadfast leadership embodied his sincerity, his generosity, his tolerance, and his deep love for his country. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos will be missed not only by the people of Oman, but also by his friends and admirers the world over, including in the United States."
Former President George W. Bush also released a statement saying Qaboos was a "stable force in the Middle East and a strong U.S. ally."
"His Majesty had a vision for a modern, prosperous, and peaceful Oman, and he willed that vision into reality," Bush said. "Laura and I are fortunate to have visited him in Muscat last fall. We enjoyed his grand hospitality, and we saw how his able leadership improved education, healthcare, and the arts throughout the beautiful country of Oman."
Qaboos did not have children or a direct heir at the time of his death. The Omani Constitution calls on the royal family to choose a new sultan within three days.
Should that fail, a letter written by Qaboos will be opened before top military and government officials revealing his choice for a successor.
Sultan was seen as a progressive leader
Qaboos was born November 18, 1940, according to the Oman News Agency. He was also a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England and served in the British army.
Qaboos, the longest serving Arab leader, overthrew his father in a bloodless coup in 1970. Oman had been an isolated country at the time, but Qaboos' reign brought in a new era.
As ruler, Qaboos sought to solidify ties with western allies. Oman has a particularly deep-rooted relationship with the United Kingdom. Queen Elizabeth II visited in 2010 to commemorate Oman's 40th National Day.
One of the more notable incidents during Qaboos' reign was his release of three American hikers who were arrested and charged for spying in Iran in July 2009. The three Americans were released in 2011.
CNN's Nourhan Moustafa contributed to this report.