WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- President Bush expressed sadness Monday over the death of Saudi King and long-time ally King Fad bin Abd al-Aziz.
"King Fahd was a man of wisdom and a leader who commanded respect throughout the entire world," Bush said in a special release. "He was a friend and strong ally of the United States for decades.
"As king, he had warm friendships with American presidents. I send my condolences and those of the American people to King Abdallah, to the late King Fahd's family, and to the Saudi people on the passing of this historic figure."
Crown Prince Abdallah, the defacto ruler of Saudi Arabia during the king's long illness, is now he country's new monarch. Abdallah was the king's half brother.
The death of Fahd and formal rise of Abdallah comes at a sensitive time in U.S.-Saudi relations. Most of those involved in the 2001 terror attacks on the United States were Saudi nationals, and the United States believes Saudi money has been used to foster, at least unwittingly, Islamist ideology in schools and other organizations around the world receiving Saudi largesse. Saudi Arabia has been a key ally -- especially on the financial side -- in U.S. efforts to bring reform to the Palestinian Authority and a restart to Middle East peace talks.