Washington: President Barack Obama expressed condolences and offered sympathy on Thursday to the people of Saudi Arabia upon the death of King Abdullah, an important ally and a major force in the Muslim world.
Obama, who visited with the ailing king in his desert compound last March, praised Abdullah for taking “bold steps” in advancing the Arab Peace Initiative. In a statement, Obama credited the 90-year-old king for being dedicated to the education of his people and for greater outreach to the international community.
“As a leader, he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions,” Obama said. “One of those convictions was his steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond.”
Though allies, Abdullah and U.S. leaders had their differences. Abdullah pressed the Obama administration to be tougher on Iran and to show greater backing for the mainly Sunni rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Obama said he “valued King Abdullah's perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship.”
Abdullah's death was announced Thursday by Saudi state TV. His successor was announced as 79-year-old half-brother, Prince Salman, according to a Royal Court statement carried on the Saudi Press Agency.
Former President George H.W. Bush praised Saudi Arabia's alliance with the U.S. after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, an invasion that led to the first Gulf War. Calling Abdullah a “dear friend and partner,” the first President Bush said he would “never forget the way Saudi Arabia and the United States stood together against a common foe—marking a moment of unparalleled cooperation between two great nations.”