World Leaders Arrive in Saudi Arabia to Pay Respects


A number of world leaders are expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia today to pay their respects personally after the death on Friday of King Abdullah.  US Vice-President Joe Biden will be attendance along with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande.

King Abdullah was aged 90 years and has been buried in an unmarked grave in the capital city Riyadh following the Friday prayers.  His successor, King Salman, 79, has pledge to continue the path set by the former king upon taking the throne.  He also quickly appointed a number of minister from his immediate family including a prince from the dynasty’s third generation.

New King

The visiting leaders will be among those taking part in the official ceremonies in the Saudi capital including the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.  No doubt these visitors will be taking the character, intentions and mood of the new king, say experts in the area.

King Abdullah died on Friday just weeks after being admitted to hospital with a lung infection and was buried later that day in accordance with Islamic customs.  He is succeeded by his half-brother, King Salman, who also appointed another half-brother, Muqrin, as the new crown prince.

Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was named as deputy crown prince, making him the second in line to the throne and establishing a clear line of succession for future years.  Crown Prince Nayef is a grandson of King Abdulaziz, referred to as Ibn Saud, the founder of the modern country of Saudi Arabia.  Until now, the crown has passed between his sons but there are few still alive.

King Abdullah ascended to the throne in 2005 but had already been effectively in charge of the country for the previous 10 years due to his predecessor, King Fahd, having been incapacitated by a stroke.  Abdullah himself had suffered bouts of ill health in recent years, leading to King Salman taking on more duties.


President Barack Obama described King Abdullah as always being candid and had the courage of his convictions while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised his work to ‘promote dialogue among the world’s faiths’.

Human rights groups, however, state that the country’s human rights had been poor under the king’s reign.

King Abdullah had been raised with traditional Islamic views but was always seems as a reformer of sorts, a vocal advocate of peace in the Middle East and constantly treading the fine line between maintaining relationships with the West while appeasing those at home.


Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud is thought to have been born in August 1924 in Riyadh and is the 13th son of around 45 sons that King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud had with his 22 wives.  His mother was the 8th of his father’s wives and was of Bedouin descent, so the young man spent time living traditionally in the desert.

He was taught religion, literature and science by Islamic scholars in the royal court and started his government career in 1961 as mayor of the holy city of Mecca.  He became deputy defence minister and commander of the National Guard two years later, which he saw equipped with the latest weapons and increased in size.

When King Faisal was assassinated in March 1975, he became second deputy prime minister and was crucial in averting a war between Jordan and Syria in 1980.  When King Khalid died in 1982, he became Crown Prince and first deputy prime minister.  He held this post until becoming king himself in 2005.


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