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Flood of world's top leaders arriving to pay respects

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French President Francois Hollande offers condoleances to Saudi King Salman following the death of Saudi King Abdullah, in Riyadh. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz died early on Friday and his brother Salman became king of the world's top oil exporter 9REUTERS/Yoan Valat)

French President Francois Hollande offers condoleances to Saudi King Salman following the death of Saudi King Abdullah, in Riyadh. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz died early on Friday and his brother Salman became king of the world's top oil exporter 9REUTERS/Yoan Valat)

REUTERS

Britain's Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron arrive to offer condolences following the death of Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)

Britain's Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron arrive to offer condolences following the death of Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)

REUTERS

Britain's Prince Charles arrives to offer condolences following the death of Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)

Britain's Prince Charles arrives to offer condolences following the death of Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)

REUTERS

Nigerian Vice President Namadi Sambo, arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to give his country's condolences for King Abdullah (AP Photo/SPA)

Nigerian Vice President Namadi Sambo, arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to give his country's condolences for King Abdullah (AP Photo/SPA)

AP

Activists from Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to India, in Kolkata as it has emerged Obama will cut short his visit to India to fly to Saudi Arabia (REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri)

Activists from Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to India, in Kolkata as it has emerged Obama will cut short his visit to India to fly to Saudi Arabia (REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri)

REUTERS

Activists from Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, shout slogans during a protest against U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to India, in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh. Obama will cut short his visit to India on Tuesday to fly to Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah (REUTERS/Ajay Verma)

Activists from Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, shout slogans during a protest against U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to India, in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh. Obama will cut short his visit to India on Tuesday to fly to Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah (REUTERS/Ajay Verma)

REUTERS

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French President Francois Hollande offers condoleances to Saudi King Salman following the death of Saudi King Abdullah, in Riyadh. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz died early on Friday and his brother Salman became king of the world's top oil exporter 9REUTERS/Yoan Valat)

World leaders and top dignitaries have begun arriving in Saudi Arabia to give their condolences following the death of King Abdullah, who died last week aged 90 after nearly two decades at the helm.

Despite deep tensions and rivalries between the nations, Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was among the first to arrive in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, where he was greeted at the airport by the late king's son, Prince Turki, who is governor of Riyadh.

The newly enthroned King Salman is also expected to receive in the coming days US President Barack Obama - who is due to cut short his visit to India to make the trip to Saudi Arabia - Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito, Spain's King Felipe VI, Jordan's King Abdullah, Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik, Dutch King Willem-Alexander and the UK's Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Morocco's Prince Moulay Rachid will pay his respects on the behalf of his brother King Mohammed VI.

Talk of Mr Zarif visiting Saudi Arabia last year quickly dissipated after Iran protested over comments made by Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Saud al-Faisal in which he called on Tehran to withdraw its "occupying forces" from Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

Iran insists it has no combat forces on the ground in any of the three countries, though it says it has sent senior commanders as advisers to Syria and Iraq.

The diplomatic squabble, in many ways, exemplified how Abdullah's most pressing priority was to confront the Shia powerhouse across the Gulf. The multiple conflicts across the region deepened Sunni-Shia hatreds and fuelled militancy during his reign.

The king, who ascended to the throne in 2005 but had been de-facto ruler for a decade before that, was buried on Friday afternoon in an unmarked grave after a prayer service in the capital Riyadh.

The Muslim-only funeral was attended by Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan and the rulers of Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain.

In line with the Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic tradition observed in the kingdom, he was buried in an unadorned, beige cloth without a coffin in an unmarked grave. There was no memorial service.

Heads of state and royals from around world will instead be visiting Saudi Arabia over the coming days to pay their respects in meetings with Saudi royals.

Powerful heads of tribes, as well as average Saudi citizens, will also meet the new king to give their condolences and express pledges of loyalty to him.

The visits are taking place in the king's dewaniya in Riyadh, a traditional Arab reception area to receive guests.

Delegations from China and South Korea, as well as prime ministers and senior politicians from Europe, Asia and elsewhere are expected in Saudi Arabia. The presidents of Mauritania, Senegal and Gabon were shown on Saudi state TV arriving yesterday.

Yesterday evening, the kingdom's senior cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheikh, government ministers, senior military leaders and other Saudi officials met King Salman to swear their allegiance.

Sunday Independent