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FORMER AFGHAN KING, 92, IS DEAD

Mohammad Zahir Shah kept the nation at peace for 40 years.

Mohammad Zahir Shah, Afghanistan's last king who oversaw four decades of peace before a 1973 palace coup ousted him and war shattered his country, died Monday (July 23, 2007). He was 92.

No cause of death was given.

The death ended the last vestige of Afghanistan's monarchy and triggered three days of national mourning for a man still feted as the "Father of the Nation" since his return from exile after the 2001 ouster of the Taliban.

Though he was not always effective during his 40-year reign, King Zahir Shah is remembered warmly by his conflict-weary countrymen for steering the country without bloodshed.

When the fall of the Taliban in 2001 offered fresh hope for national reconciliation, many clamored for King Zahir Shah's return - not only to his homeland but to the throne.

When he did come back from Italy in April 2002, he stood aside in favor of an anti-Taliban tribesman, now-President Hamid Karzai.

Born Oct. 15, 1914, King Zahir Shah was proclaimed monarch in 1933 at age 19 within hours of the death of his father, King Muhammad Nadir Shah, who was assassinated before his eyes.

King Zahir Shah ruled until 1973, when he was ousted by Mohammad Daoud Khan, a cousin. The king's ouster ended a 300-year-old dynasty.

Karzai, who announced the king's death during a news conference broadcast live nationwide, called him a "symbol of national unity" who brought development and education to the country.

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