World leaders pay respects to late Saudi King Abdullah

World leaders pay respects to late Saudi King Abdullah

World leaders are heading to Saudi Arabia to pay their respects in person after the death on Friday of King Abdullah.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande will be in Riyadh. The US delegation is led by Vice-President Joe Biden.

King Abdullah died aged 90. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Riyadh after Friday prayers.

King Salman, 79, pledged continuity after his accession to the throne.

He also moved swiftly to appoint heirs and ministers, including one prince from the ruling dynasty’s third generation.

On Saturday, Mr Cameron, Mr Hollande and Mr Biden will take part in official ceremonies in the Saudi capital.

Iran will be represented by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

These visitors will be looking to take the measure of the character, mood and intentions of the new monarch, BBC Arab Affairs editor Alan Johnston reports.

King Abdullah died on Friday, weeks after being admitted to hospital with a lung infection, and he was buried later that day.

US President Barack Obama paid tribute to Abdullah as a leader who “was always candid and had the courage of his convictions”.

Mr Obama is shortening his three-day trip to India – dropping a visit to the Taj Mahal – and will now fly to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to meet the new king.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Abdullah’s work “to promote dialogue among the world’s faiths”.

However, human rights groups said Saudi Arabia’s human rights record had been dismal under Abdullah and urged Salman to do more to protect freedom of speech and women’s rights.

Amnesty International spokesman Neil Durkin described Abdullah’s human rights legacy as “disastrous”, saying that “endemic torture in police cells and in prisons” remained.




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