WASHINGTON – President Bush called newly appointed King Abdullah (search) of Saudi Arabia on Monday to express condolences over the death of King Fahd (search) and to congratulate Abdullah on his succession to the throne.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who announced the phone call, said a U.S. delegation would attend Fahd's funeral. He said the delegation hasn't been chosen yet. Bush will not attend the services, McClellan said.
Fahd died Monday and Abdullah, his 81-year-old half brother, was quickly named to replace him.
Abdullah has been the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia since Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995.
The White House was notified of Fahd's death by the government of Saudi Arabia at about 2:30 a.m., EDT but Bush was not told until later Monday morning when he began his work day in the Oval Office, McClellan said.
The strong U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia was strained with the advent of potent, anti-Western terrorism, manifested by the 9-11 attacks in New York and Washington.
Fifteen of the 19 suicide bombers were Saudis. The kingdom mounted an aggressive anti-terror campaign, with arrests and a clampdown on Saudi contributions to charities that apparently channeled some money to militant groups.
In the meantime, the Saudi face in Washington is changing.
Last month, Prince Bandar bin Sultan (search), the Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years, resigned. He is being replaced by Prince Turki bin al-Faisal (search), a former head of Saudi intelligence and current ambassador to Britain.
Bandar, meanwhile, was rumored to be interested in a security post in Riyadh. Last November he spoke out against the decapitation in Iraq of American Nicholas Berg, calling the execution "criminal and inhuman."