Saudi King Abdullah leads funeral for Crown Prince Nayef in Mecca

Saudi officials carrying Crown Prince Nayef's body into an ambulance after arriving in Jeddah airport from Geneva on June 17, 2012. (AFP)

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia led a burial ceremony on Sunday for his brother Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz in the holy city of Mecca where royal family members and international envoys also gathered to offer their condolences.

The 78-year-old Prince Nayef will be buried in the holy city of Mecca after evening prayers in the Grand Mosque. He passed away in the Swiss city of Geneva on Saturday. The prince left for Geneva on May 26 for the second time in three months to undergo medical tests.

Prince Nayef served the interior minister since 1975 and was heir to Saudi King Abdullah after his appointment as crown prince in October 2011 after the death of his elder brother, Crown Prince Sultan.

Condolences, tributes

Public figures all across the world offered their condolences to Saudi King Abdullah.

U.S. President Barack Obama paid tributes to the prince on Saturday saying: “Under his leadership, the United States and Saudi Arabia developed a strong and effective partnership in the fight against terrorism, one that has saved countless American and Saudi lives.”

France’s new President Francois Hollande offered his condolences and said that his country has lost “a friend.”

“Saudi Arabia has lost a statesman who left his mark on the development of his country and contributed decisively to its security and the common fight against terrorism,” a statement from Hollande’s office said.

UK’s Foreign Minister William Hague offered his condolences on behalf of his government and expressed his sadness over the loss.

Saudi princes carry the coffin of Crown Prince Nayef at Jeddah airport. (Reuters)

Egypt’s two contending presidential candidates, former premier Ahmed Shafiq and Islamist Mohammed Mursi, also offered their condolences to King Abdullah and the people of Saudi Arabia.

“Heartfelt condolences to King of Saudi Arabia and its people on the death of Prince Nayef, may God have mercy on his soul,” Mursi tweeted.

Algeria’s President Abdulaziz Bu Tafliqa said that he lost a “brother and a friend,” and the prince’s death was a loss for the Arab and the Muslim world.

General Secretary of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi, said that he will arrive in Riyadh on Sunday to take part in the funeral.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati is also scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to participate on behalf of the Lebanese government in prayer.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II phone called his Saudi counterpart to offer condolences and also declared a mourning period, as did Kuwait and Bahrain. King of Morocco Mohammed VI also sent his condolences.

Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, accompanied by Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, have left for Saudi Arabia to attend the funeral prayers.

Meanwhile, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani sent his condolences, and Turkish President Abdullah Gulf called the Saudi King to express his sorrow.

Succession

Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz is widely seen as the next most senior prince in the world’s top oil exporter after the death of Crown Prince Nayef.

Unlike in European monarchies, the line of royal succession in Saudi Arabia does not move directly from father to eldest son, but is passed down a line of brothers born to the kingdom’s founder King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, who died in 1953.

Under rules drawn up soon after King Abdullah became the monarch in 2005, succession decisions lie with an “allegiance council” of the ruling al-Saud family.

When a king dies, his crown prince accedes to power and nominates a new crown prince.

The allegiance council, which has 34 princely members who each represent the family of a son of Ibn Saud, votes to approve the king’s choice and has the power to elect its own nominee.

The council swore allegiance to Nayef as crown prince after the death of his predecessor Prince Sultan last year. The king made the announcement.

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