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Abbas declares 3 days of mourning for Saudi King

Jan. 23, 2015 12:25 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 23, 2015 1:58 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday declared three days of mourning for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, who died overnight.

Abbas will travel to Saudi Arabia to express his condolences.

The royal court said in a statement that Abdullah, believed to be around 90, died at 1 a.m. local time, expressing its "great sadness and mourning".

He will be replaced by his half-brother Salman as the absolute ruler of the world's top oil exporter and the spiritual home of Islam.

Under Abdullah, who took the throne in 2005, Saudi Arabia has been a key ally of Washington in the Arab world, most recently joining the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

US President Barack Obama was quick to pay tribute to Abdullah as a valued ally.

"As our countries worked together to confront many challenges, I always valued King Abdullah's perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship," Obama said in a written statement shortly after the monarch's death.

"The closeness and strength of the partnership between our two countries is part of King Abdullah's legacy."

Other tributes came in from Japan, India and France, whose President Francois Hollande hailed Abdullah as "a statesman whose work profoundly marked the history of his country."

But Saudi Arabia is still strongly criticized for a dismal human rights record, including the imprisonment of dissidents. It is also the only country in the world that does not allow women to drive.

Rights group Amnesty International said earlier that Saudi Arabia had postponed for a second time on medical grounds Badawi's flogging, which had been due to resume on Friday. He has already received 50 lashes.

Campaigners for women's right to drive referred only in passing to the king's death, saying on their Twitter account: "For all creatures whether big or small -- nothing remains but your deeds and your grave -- and only God lasts forever".

AFP contributed to this report
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