DUBAI/CAIRO: Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said, one of the Middle East’s longest serving rulers who maintained the country’s neutrality in regional struggles, died on Friday and state media said his cousin Haitham bin Tariq al-Said was named his successor.

Oman declared three days of official mourning with flags to be flown at half-mast for 40 days for the Western-backed Qaboos, 79, who ruled since taking over in a bloodless coup in 1970 with the help of former colonial power Britain.

State television broadcast images of the funeral procession driving down a road lined with palm trees. The casket, draped in the Omani flag, was then carried into Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in the capital Muscat, where prayers were being held.