Leaders arrive in Saudi Arabia to meet new King

Leaders arrive in Saudi Arabia to meet new King
2 min read
24 January, 2015
Leaders from across the globe are gathering in Saudi Arabia to offer condolences on the death of King Abdullah, and to meet the new monarch, King Salman.
World leaders headed to Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah. [AFP]
World leaders headed to Saudi Arabia on Saturday to offer condolences following the death of King Abdullah, with US President Barack Obama cutting short a trip to India to pay respects.

Obama had been scheduled to visit the Taj Mahal but cancelled that following the death of Abdullah and will travel to Riyadh on Tuesday, the White House said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince Charles and French President Francois Hollande were among the leaders expected in the Saudi capital on Saturday to offer condolences to new King Salman.

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has also arrived in Riyadh on a rare visit for an Iranian official to Saudi Arabia. The two countries have had troubled relations in recent years after taking different sides in the Syrian civil war.

Abdullah died on Friday at the age of about 90 after being hospitalised with pneumonia.

Since Abdullah took the throne in 2005, Riyadh has been a prime Arab ally of Washington, last year joining the coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State militant group.

World leaders have praised the king as a key mediator between Muslims and the West, but campaigners criticised his rights record and urged Salman to do more to protect freedom of speech and women's rights.

Gulf rulers, and leaders including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, were among those who attended Abdullah's traditionally simple funeral at Riyadh's Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque on Friday.

Africa was also represented, with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon arrived on Saturday to pay respects.

On Friday the late king's body, wrapped in a cream-coloured shroud, was borne on a litter by members of the royal family wearing red-and-white checked headgear.

The body was quickly moved to nearby al-Od public cemetry and buried, in a grave marked only by a book-sized plain grey stone.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak arrived later to deliver condolences, as did Iraqi President Fuad Masum.