Tuesday 2 August 2005
Last Update 2 August 2005 12:00 am
JEDDAH, 2 August 2005 — From Turkey to Taiwan and Britain to Bangladesh, nations around the world mourned the death of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd yesterday. Jordan announced 40 days of mourning for the late king while Spain announced a day’s mourning. Egypt postponed an Arab summit at Sharm El-Sheikh.
Western powers and Arab leaders described Fahd as a statesman who had skillfully balanced his role as protector of Islam’s holy shrines with the Kingdom’s position as a key US ally. They voiced full support for the new King Abdullah.
President George W. Bush spoke to Abdullah to offer US condolences on Fahd’s death and to congratulate him on assuming the throne. “We have a close partnership with Saudi Arabia and good relations, and the president considers King Abdullah a friend,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II said the king had led his country with “wisdom and skill”. “During his reign Britain and Saudi Arabia enjoyed a very close relationship,” said a message released by Buckingham Palace.
“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.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: “The king was a true friend of the United Nations since its inception, having attended the inauguration of the organization as a member of the Saudi delegation in 1945. King Fahd will be remembered not only with deep affection and loyalty among the people of the Kingdom, but with profound respect in the Islamic, Arab and world communities.”
Arab and Muslim countries flew their flags at half-mast and most announced three days of morning for the man who ruled Saudi Arabia for 23 years.
As word of Fahd’s death spread, many Arab television stations interrupted programming to broadcast recitations from the Holy Qur’an.
“We received with great sadness the news of the death of King Fahd, which is a loss for Saudi Arabia and the Muslim and Arab world,” Kuwaiti Energy Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahd Al-Sabah said, adding that Kuwait would always be grateful for Riyadh’s role in freeing his country from Iraqi occupation.
Arab leaders applauded Fahd’s diplomacy in the Arab-Israeli conflict and the economic aid. “We do not forget his relentless efforts to put Palestine on the international agenda,” said Nabil Shaath, Palestinian deputy premier. “There is a deep sadness in Palestine at his death.”
Saad Hariri, son of Lebanon’s slain former prime minister Rafik Hariri, recalled Fahd’s role in ending that country’s 1975-1990 civil war and aiding its recovery. “We in Lebanon... feel the magnitude of the loss, remembering how the Kingdom stood by us at each of our political and economic crossroads,” said Hariri.
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said in a statement that “the death of King Fahd is a great loss. Saudi Arabia has lost with the departure of the late King Fahd a distinguished king who led his country to prosperity and development.” “The Lebanese loss in the death of King Fahd is immense.
“We have lost a great brother who stood by us and defended our rights and helped in ending wars on our territories as well as helped in reviving our economy,” the statement said.
President Hosni Mubarak expressed his sincere condolences in the name of himself, the Egyptian people and the government to the people of Saudi Arabia and the royal family. “The deceased will go down in history for his many and substantial achievements in the service of the holy sites, his people and country,” Mubarak said in a statement.
Fahd would likewise be remembered for his “honorable and sincere defense of the (Islamic) nation,” the statement added.
Pakistan, a close friend, expressed “deep grief and sorrow” and announced a seven-day official morning period. “On behalf of people and government of Pakistan and my personal behalf, may I express deepest condolence to my brother Abdullah, the government and people of Saudi Arabia,” President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said in a televised address.
Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer described Fahd as a “true friend” of his country, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai described the late king as a brother and good friend of Afghan people.
Syria declared three days of morning and the official news agency SANA said that flags were lowered to half-mast at all governmental institutions.
Bangladesh called Fahd’s death an irreparable loss for Muslims around the world. Bangladesh President Iazuddin Ahmad and Prime Minister Khaleda Zia said the late king symbolized Muslim unity and was a fountain of inspiration for many.
Taiwan expressed its condolences. “We have asked our representative in Riyadh, Yang Sheng-chung, to convey the government’s condolences to the Saudi authorities,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Michel Lu.
A three-day morning period was also declared by the Palestinian Authority, which recalled Fahd as a stout defender of the Arab and Palestinian people.
“His death is a loss to the millions of Arabs and Muslims around the world. He was a leader who spent his life in defense of Arab causes and particularly on the Palestinian issue,” a statement from Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei’s office said.
Saudi neighbor Yemen also expressed sadness at the death of Fahd. “It is a great loss for Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the Arab and Muslim national. King Fahd’s death will have repercussions on Arab and Muslim action,” Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Baqr Al-Kurbi said in Cairo.
The Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said: “In view of King Fahd’s death, it was decided to postpone the Arab summit, and a new date will be fixed later,” Moussa said at Sharm El-Sheikh where the summit was supposed to convene tomorrow.
“The summit will be held with the same agenda to discuss the issues at stake in Iraq and the Palestinian territory,” Moussa added.
The Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar, Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi said: “We are sad at the news of the death of a man who spent his whole life serving the Arab and Islamic causes and working hard in unifying the Muslim world and constructing Saudi Arabia.”