Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Fahd Dies, Abdullah is the New King

By Cihan News Agency
Published: Tuesday August 02, 2005

Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd who had long been suffering serious health problems died yesterday morning at King Faisal Specialist Hospital where he had been receiving treatment since May 27. State television announced the death of the 83 years old King by interrupting its regular broadcasting.

King Fahd who had ascended to the throne in 1982, suffered a stroke in 1995. Crown Prince Abdullah who had ruled as deputy for ten years, has now officially became Saudi Arabia’s sixth king. Lately, the deterioration in Fahd’s condition had been reported. The funeral ceremony is scheduled for today. The new King Abdullah announced that all ministers would retain their posts. Defense Minister Sultan who has now become crown prince is named as the second deputy prime minister. The planned Arab League summit to be held at the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh Wednesday, August 3, has been postponed upon the request of Egyptian President Husni Mubarak following the death of the Saudi King. The Arab League General Secretariat announced that the summit was postponed for several days and that a new date would be announced later. Fahd’s death caused a surge in oil prices. The price per barrel of US light crude rose 49 cents to $61.60.

No policy change

The predominant view is that Abdullah’s reign will not bring any major policy change. Saudi Arabia’s London Ambassador Prince Turki bin al-Faisal said that he could not imagine that there would be any particular change in policy, including the policy on oil. Mai Yamani, a Saudi analyst from the Royal Institute of Social Affairs is of the same opinion. On the other hand, a Saudi official said the only change is Abdullah’s ascending the throne and that he would receive the royal family’s support to continue reforms. Abdullah who had been the de facto ruler of the worlds biggest oil exporter since 1995 is known as the force behind the economic reforms in Saudi Arabia. He also initiated political reforms, as attests to the country’s first ever, municipal elections held this year. Saudi Arabia is on the one hand spending efforts to repair relations with the US, which were damaged when it was revealed that most of the 9/11 attacks suspects were Saudi Nationals and on the other, fighting against al-Qaeda linked bombings rocking the country since May 2003. Oil, the Middle East issue and the fight against al-Qaeda are noted as the main issues to be dealt with by King Abdullah during his reign.

While no mourning period will be observed in Saudi Arabia in conformity with the Wahabi teaching of the Kingdom, Jordan has announced 40 days, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and the Arab League have announced three days of official mourning. In the meantime, the US announced the three-day closure of its Embassy at Riyadh and Consulates at Jeddah and Dhahran. Turkey also sent King Abdullah letters of condolence. Furthermore, flags will be flown at half-mast today in Turkey. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and many presidents of state, including the US leader and leaders of European Union countries have sent letters of condolences and congratulations to the new Saudi administration.


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