updated 1/4/2006 5:34:29 AM ET 2006-01-04T10:34:29

The emir of Dubai, Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, died Wednesday. He was 62.

Sheik Maktoum, who was also vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, died during a visit to Australia, the government said.

Police in Australia said he died a resort on the Gold Coast in Queensland state. The body was expected to be flown home later Wednesday. Dubai declared 40 days of mourning.

Born in the family home in the Shindagha area of Dubai, Sheik Maktoum was educated at a British university and succeeded his father as ruler of the emirate in October 1990.

His foremost interest was horseracing, and he and his younger brother, the crown prince Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, worked to put Dubai on the racing map. The annual Dubai World Cup is billed as the world's richest horse race.

Sheik Maktoum often represented the country abroad during the years when the former president, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was ailing. But he tended to leave day-to-day government of Dubai to his younger brother, who will succeed him.

"The United Arab Emirates today lost a historical leader who devoted his life to establishing the United Arab Emirates and enhancing its structure and the welfare of its people," the government said.

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