As Arab, world leaders offer condolences for death of King Fahd, some express outrage at him

Arab leaders announced mourning, a regional summit was postponed, leaders prepared to attend the funeral of Saudi Arabia's King Fahdrab, whose ties with United States and control over the world's largest oil supplies made him one of the Midlle East most influential figures.

Jordan - which like many Arab nations benefited from Saudi oil-financed investments - set a 40-day period of mourning. Some officials started jetting off to Saudi Arabia to attend the late king's funeral in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Tuesday.

"Saudi Arabia has lost one of its dutiful sons, a leader among the most dear of its leaders and men," said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who planned to attend Fahd's funeral.

U.S. President George W. Bush called Fahd's half brother, newly appointed King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, to express his condolences over the death and to congratulate Abdullah on his succession to the throne. Bush will not attend Fahd's funeral but a U.S. delegation will attend, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Fahd a "true friend" of the United Nations, noting that he was a member of the Saudi delegation at its 1945 founding, according to a statement.

"While recognizing the demands of the modern world, King Fahd was also firmly guided, in the tradition of his predecessors, by the principles and traditions of Islam," the statement said.

An emergency Arab summit that Mubarak had called in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik in the wake of the July 23 terror attacks there was postponed until later this month.

Among the first leaders heading to the summit was Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who upon touching down in Sharm heard of Fahd's death and ordered his plane take off again and return to Yemen.

In Saudi Arabia, government offices remained open and oil pumping continued. Flags remained at full-staff because the green Saudi flag bears the central profession of faith in Islam - "There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet" - and lowering it would be seen as demeaning to the name of God.

Fahd was succeeded by Abdullah, the crown prince who has been the kingdom's de facto ruler since a stroke incapacitated the late king in 1995. The quick succession boosted the sense of stability.

"I don't think that the Saudi policies will change but the execution (of the policies) will be faster," said Turki al-Hamad, a prominent Saudi columnist and former political science professor. "I expect the pace of reform to be faster."

There was also oil market reaction, with crude oil prices soaring past US$61 a barrel to two-week highs minutes after news broke of Fahd's death.

A Saudi Oil Ministry official, who refused to be identified as he was not authorized to comment, tried to dispel market concerns, saying "we are very keen to continue to provide the market with its needs."

Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, the Palestinian Authority and the Cairo-based Arab League were among those who announced three days of mourning, as did the southern Spanish resort city of Marbella, where Fahd owned a palatial mansion and often spent vacation time.

The U.S. Embassy also announced the three-day closure of its office in Riyadh and its consulates in Jiddah and Dhahran in light of Fahd's death, the AP reports.

Countries across the Middle East which benefited from Saudi investments driven by oil proceeds heaped praise on Fahd.

"Jordan will stand beside Saudi Arabia and its people on this painful occasion. May God grant his mercy and patience to the Saudi people. May God rest his soul," according to a statement issued by the Jordanian Royal Court of King Abdullah II.

Jibril Rajoub, National Security Adviser of the Palestinian leader, described Fahd's death as a great loss to the Arab and Muslim worlds and praised Saudi Arabia for being financially and politically the "most committed Arab country to the Palestinian issue."

Lebanese lawmaker and Saudi citizen Saad Hariri, son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was a close friend of the Saudi royal family, headed to Saudi Arabia to take part in the funeral.

"The Arab and Islamic nation has lost a great man and one of its fearless men who dedicated his life to the service of the people of this nation and their aspirations," said Hariri.

Lebanon's Shiite Muslim Hezbollah guerrilla group praised Fahd for his role in the 1989 Taif Accord that ended Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder lauded Fahd as a wise leader who sought better relations between Islam and the West, while the French presidential palace praised the late king as a respected ruler and a friend of France.

Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, the grand imam of Egypt's prominent Al-Azhar University, described the Saudi king as a "pure believer who lived his life carrying the burden of the (Islamic) nation on his shoulders and sought to unite all Arabs."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was saddened by the death of Fahd, who as ruler of Saudi Arabia oversaw the funneling of millions of Saudi riyals to Islamic militants fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

But on extremist Islamic Web sites, participants were cheering the death of a king who angered hard-line Muslims by allying himself with the United States and allowing U.S. troops on the same soil as Islam's holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.

"Allah Akbar (God is great), the enemy of God and Islam went to hell, may the rest of infidels and apostates follow his path," a participant using the nickname "Abu Foad al-Dandari wrote.

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