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Ireland to pay respects at King Abdullah condolence service

Ambassador Tony Cotter is representing the Department of Foreign Affairs.

There's a book of condolence in the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Dublin.
There's a book of condolence in the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Updated 3.57 pm

THE IRISH AMBASSADOR to Saudi Arabia will represent Ireland at a condolence ceremony for the late King Abdullah in Riyadh this evening.

Tony Cotter will be present for the Department of Foreign Affairs following the death of the 90-year-old head of state.

A book of condolence is also open to the public at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Dublin.

A host of world leaders are travelling to the Gulf state to offer condolences and to meet the new King Salman.

US President Barack Obama has cut short his visit to India, cancelling a planned trip to the Taj Mahal, to “pay respects”.

Obama was scheduled to go to India’s famed monument to love accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama at the end of a three-day visit to the country.

Instead, the White House said Obama would travel to Riyadh from New Delhi on Tuesday morning to meet the new monarch after the death of Salman’s half-brother King Abdullah on Friday.

President Obama is due to be a the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations on Monday.

“The president regrets that he will be unable to visit Agra during this trip,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest in a statement, referring to the town where the Taj Mahal is located.

Obama The Obamas before leaving for India. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Abdullah, a cautious reformer who led the Gulf state through a turbulent decade in a region shaken by the Arab Spring uprisings and Islamic extremism, died on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia and the United States remained staunch allies during his nearly decade-long reign, which spanned the Arab Spring and multiple wars that roiled the Middle East.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince Charles and French President Francois Hollande are among other leaders expected to fly in to offer condolences.

Abdullah, a cautious reformer who led the Gulf state through a turbulent decade in a region shaken by the Arab Spring uprisings and Islamic extremism, died on Thursday aged about 90 after being hospitalised with pneumonia.

King Abdullah death Prince Charles, pictured here with the late King Abdullah, is travelling to Saudi Arabia. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

World leaders have praised the king as a key mediator between Muslims and the West, but campaigners criticised his rights record and urged Salman to do more to protect freedom of speech and women’s rights.

Gulf rulers, and leaders including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, were among those who attended Abdullah’s traditionally simple funeral at Riyadh’s Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque on Friday.

On Friday the late king’s body, wrapped in a cream-coloured shroud, was borne on a litter by members of the royal family wearing red-and-white checked headgear.

‘Valued ally’

Obama paid tribute to Abdullah as a “valued” ally as the State Department indicated cooperation between Washington and Riyadh would continue.

Salman pledged to keep the conservative, oil-rich Muslim kingdom on a steady course and moved to cement his hold on power.

In his first public statement as king, Salman, 79, vowed to “remain, with God’s strength, attached to the straight path that this state has walked since its establishment”.

He called for “unity and solidarity” among Muslims and vowed to work in “the defence of the causes of our nation”.

© – AFP 2015 with reporting from Rónán Duffy

Read: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has died >

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