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President Bush Offers Condolences on Death of Saudi King Fahd

The White House has expressed condolences to Saudi Arabia on the death of King Fahd. The United States reaffirmed the importance of close relations with the world's top oil exporter as a new monarch assumes the throne.

President Bush has tirelessly trumpeted democracy for the Middle East, but the administration paid tribute to a man who sat as ruler of Saudi Arabia based on birthright, not votes, since the early 1980's.

In a statement, Mr. Bush said King Fahd was a man of wisdom and a leader who commanded respect throughout the entire world.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said President Bush was informed of the royal death early Monday, and spoke with the new Saudi ruler, King Abdullah, to express condolences and, at the same time, congratulate him on assuming the throne. Mr. Bush has twice hosted the new king at his Texas ranch, most recently in April of this year.

Long-standing ties exist between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family, extending as far back as the tenure of President Bush's father, when he was the head of the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1970s.

Saudi Arabia remains a critical ally of the United States in the Middle East, despite political tensions that arose after it became known that 15 of 19 hijackers who took part in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were Saudis.