King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has died in hospital in Riyadh, two months after being admitted with acute pneumonia.
He had been in poor health for several years. He was confined to a wheelchair following a stroke in 1995 and also suffered from diabetes. His half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, who assumed many of Fahd’s duties following the King’s stroke, has been named as his successor. Fahd’s funeral takes place on Tuesday and Abdullah will be officially sworn in on Wednesday as the new head of state of the world’s biggest oil exporter. Fahd became involved in the running of the country in his early 20s, first serving under his brother, Faisal, who was foreign minister at the time. He acceeded to the throne in 1982. Despite his later illnesses, the King was a major player in Middle East politics. He sought to bring stability to the region’s trouble spots, through relations with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the late King Hussein of Jordan. As well as being one of the world’s richest nations, Saudi Arabia’s also home to Islam’s holiest city, Mecca. In the last two years Saudi Arabia has been hit by a wave of bloody terrorist attacks – al-Qaeda’s response to the royal family’s links with the west and the deployment of US troops in the country. It is this troubled scenario that Abdullah inherits.