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Saudi King Abdullah dies, brother Salman takes over

Abdullah, who had ruled Saudi Arabia since 2005 and was said to be aged about 90, had been suffering from a lung infection and was admitted to hospital last month.

"His Highness Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, who passed away at exactly 1 am (local time) this morning," said the statement.

The elderly ruler had sought to modernise the ultra- conservative Muslim kingdom and led it through a turbulent decade in a region shaken by the Arab Spring uprisings and Islamic extremism.

To ensure a smooth transition, the kingdom quickly appointed his 79-year-old half-brother, Salman bin Abdulaziz, to the throne. His brother Prince Muqrin, a decade younger, is the new crown prince.

In his first public statement as the new ruler, Salman vowed to maintain a steady course for the kingdom.

"We will, with God's will and power, adhere to the straight path this country followed since its establishment by King Abdulaziz and his sons after him, and will not deviate at all from it, since our constitution is the book of Allah (Quran) and the teachings of Prophet Mohammed," he said in televised statement.

He also spoke of the "desperate need for unity and solidarity" among Muslims, saying Saudi Arabia would continue to promote that.

"We will remain with God's strength attached to the straight path that this state has walked since its establishment.

The new king asked for God's support him in his "great responsibility".

Salman has been crown prince and defence minister since 2012. Before that, he was governor of Riyadh province for five decades.

Salman has ordered that absentee funeral prayer should be performed for the late monarch, according to Sulaiman Aba Al- Khail, Minister of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Dawah and Guidance.

The prayer will be offered at all mosques around the country, the Saudi Gazette reported.

King Abdullah became king of the oil-rich nation, a key US ally in the Middle East, in August 2005 but had been running Saudi Arabia since 1996, after his half-brother King Fahd's stroke.

The country produces 9.5 million barrels a day and exports 7 million. It accounts for over a 10th of global supply and a fifth of crude sold internationally.

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