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Vice President Hamid Ansari leads Indian delegation to Saudi king's funeral
Saturday January 24, 2015 11:23 PM, MD Rasooldeen

Vice President Hamid Ansari Saturday left for Saudi Arabia at the head of an Indian government delegation to attend the funeral of king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who died early Friday.

The government has declared a day's mourning Saturday and flags are being flown at half-mast.

An official told IANS from the vice-president's residence that he left around 12.30 p.m.

An official statement said that "the government and people of India have received with deep sadness and shock" the news of king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud death from complications from pneumonia early Friday.

"India has maintained close and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Abdullah. These bonds have been especially strengthened by the presence of the large expatriate Indian community which has found a home in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the statement added.

Ansari has been a former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia (1995-1999).

President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have sent messages of condolence to new King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

"In his passing away, Saudi Arabia had lost a beloved leader, India a close friend and the world an elder statesman," a statement from Rashtrapati Bhavan said.

"King Abdullah had genuine warmth and affection for India and our people. He was personally committed to improving bilateral ties with India," it added.

Modi described the late Saudi king as a guiding force, and said: "In King Abdullah, we have lost an important voice, who left a lasting impact on his country. I condole his demise.

"Our thoughts are with the people of Saudi Arabia, who have lost a guiding force in King Abdullah, during this hour of grief. A few days ago I spoke to (then) Crown Prince Salman and enquired about King Abdullah's health. News of King Abdullah's passing away is saddening," he added.

India's energy security depends a lot on Saudi Arabia which accounts for 20 percent of the country's oil imports.

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