BEIRUT – World leaders paid their respects on Monday to the late Saudi King Fahd but said his death would not affect their ties to the oil-rich kingdom, effectively ruled by his crown prince and now successor for the past decade.
Western powers and Arab leaders hailed Fahd as a statesman who had skillfully balanced his role as protector of Islam’s holy shrines with his kingdom’s position as a key U.S. ally.
They voiced full support for King Fahd’s half-brother Abdullah, already named as the new monarch.
“We have a close partnership with Saudi Arabia and good relations, and the president considers King Abdullah a friend,” U.S. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
A State Department official said: “The death is not going to have any negative impact on our relations with the kingdom.”
Saudi Arabia’s longstanding alliance with the United States on oil and security was severely strained after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks carried out mainly by Saudi suicide hijackers.
King Abdullah has run day-to-day affairs since a stroke debilitated Fahd in 1995, and most expect him to steer a steady course for the world’s largest oil producer.
“King Fahd…led Saudi Arabia through a period of unparalleled progress and development. He was also a good friend of the United Kingdom,” said British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Arab and Muslim countries flew their flags at half-mast and many announced three or even seven days of mourning for the man who ruled the desert kingdom for 23 years.
As word of Fahd’s death spread, many Arab television stations interrupted programming to broadcast the Koran…
Fahd’s strong ties with Washington and decision to let U.S. forces deploy in Islam’s birthplace in 1990 for the Gulf War, enraged Saudi-born al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who has vowed to depose the Saudi royal family…