Leaders from all over the world mourn “Sultan al-Khair” and offer condolences to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

Palestinian issue has been receiving permanent support from the great deceased

Global press mourn Prince Sultan and describe him as top statesman

In a simple but somber ceremony, the body of Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia was buried in an unmarked grave alongside those of fellow members of the ruling family in a public cemetery in Riyadh.

The burial came after prayers at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque, where the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, received royalty and political leaders from around the world.

The body of Crown Prince Sultan was covered in brown fabric as he was carried to the front of the mosque, where it was placed on the ground in front of Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia. Flags across the region flew at half-staff, except in Saudi Arabia, which does not lower its flag.

In mosques throughout the kingdom, including those in Makkah and Madinah, prayers were also held for the man known as Sultan Al Khair, or the Sultan of Good, whose successor as crown prince has not yet been named.

From the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, were among the dignitaries who flew into Riyadh from all over the world for the funeral.

"We are all mourning a man who influenced us all to be the best that we can and that best comes through service to Allah and to others," said Mohammed Al Otaibi, a captain with the Saudi navy who met Prince Sultan 15 years ago when he graduated from the naval academy.

"Sultan was always happiest when meeting regular Saudi citizens, listening to their problems and helping to solve them. He enjoyed giving more than he enjoyed receiving."

Majed Al Sharif, a 32-year-old bank manager, spoke of how touched he was when he saw mobile phone footage of Prince Sultan visiting disabled orphans.

"Prince Sultan walked into an orphanage for special-needs children and picked up one of the children out of a wheelchair," Al Sharif said. "The boy hugged Price Sultan and told him, 'I love you'.

"A staff member at the orphanage asked the little boy if he knew who he was kissing and the little boy said he didn't. That made Prince Sultan laugh. Then he told the boy he loved him too. The prince asked the boy what he wanted and the boy said he wanted prayer beads.

"Prince Sultan gave him more than that. But what I found touching was the exchange between them - it was like an exchange between a grandfather and a grandson."

Barack Obama, the US president, called the prince a "valued friend" who had helped to cement ties between the allies. Prince Sultan died in New York on Saturday and his body arrived in Riyadh on Monday night, where it was met by the highest ranking members of the Saudi royal family, religious leaders, dignitaries, leaders of the armed forces and the public.

He underwent surgery in New York in February 2009 for an undisclosed illness and spent almost a year abroad, recuperating in the United States and at a palace in Agadir, Morocco.

His simple grave lies by those of other members of the royal family, including King Fahd, King Khaled and King Faisal, carefully positioned three meters from a road skirting the edge of the cemetery so passers-by can pause for a moment to pray for his soul.

World leaders poured into Riyadh to offer condolences on the death of Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz who was buried on Tuesday in the presence of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia.

The funeral set the stage for King Abdullah to name a new crown prince, widely expected to be Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz, a choice that would emphasize stability in the kingdom.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, offered his condolences to Prince Naif and a number of the Saudi ruling family members.

Sheikh Mohammed paid his respects to King Abdullah, sons and brothers of the late Prince Sultan, and the Saudi people.

General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai also offered their condolences to Prince Naif and a number of princes.

Sheikh Mohammed was accompanied by a high-profile delegation, which included Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah; Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman; Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Crown Prince of Fujairah; Sheikh Rashid bin Saud bin Rashid Al Mu’alla, Crown Prince of Umm Al Quwain; Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah; Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Advisor to the UAE President, and other senior officials.

Prince Sultan’s sons and brothers carried his body, swathed in a brown shroud, on a bier through a throng of mourners in Riyadh’s sprawling Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque for funeral prayers before burial.

The body of Prince Sultan was flown back to Riyadh on Monday, accompanied by his younger brother and Riyadh Governor Prince Salman, who may now play a more prominent role in the kingdom.

Among the mourners who greeted King Abdullah after the prayer recital was Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.

The Royal Court said it would be open to accept condolences for three days from Tuesday.

King Abdullah, who left hospital on Saturday night after a back operation last week, remained seated for the funeral prayers and wore a surgical mask over his face.

Guests at the funeral service, including the president of Afghanistan, the Syrian vice-president and the head of Egypt’s ruling military council, paid condolences to King Abdullah as they filed out of the prayer hall.

The seniority of the delegations demonstrates Sultan’s prominent role as defense minister over five decades when he used multi-billion-dollar arms purchases to strengthen Saudi armed forces and cement ties with Western allies.

Although he had been seriously ill for some time, it is very difficult to think of Saudi Arabia without Crown Prince Sultan His death robs the Kingdom of a leader and statesman who since the reign of his father, King Abdulaziz, had been one of the key figures in building it into the modern, developed, progressive and safe and secure country that it is today.

From 1947, when he became governor of Riyadh at the remarkably young age of 16, he was a constant element in the government of Saudi Arabia. The overwhelming majority of Saudis have never known a time when he was not there as a senior minister.

He became minister of agriculture in 1953 when his father was still on the throne. He subsequently served as minister of transport and then from 1962 as minister of defense and aviation. That is almost half a century. There have been few people anywhere in the world to have served their country so long in such a vital position, or with the success that he could claim.

It is not just the length of time that he served that impresses; it is also the breadth of his contribution to Saudi development.

He led innumerable political delegations abroad. The development and expansion of Saudi Arabian Airlines, of which he was chairman, was very much his doing, as was the development of aviation generally in the Kingdom; he was also chairman of General Authority of Civil Aviation. There were so many other posts as well. He was the Kingdom’s inspector general. He chaired the Supreme Committee for the Economic Offset Program, the General Organization for Military Industries, the Food and Drug Authority, the Supreme Committee for Education Policy.

He was the Saudi co-head of the Saudi-Yemeni and of the Saudi-Qatari coordination councils.

He was extremely involved too in charity organizations, both at home and abroad, providing generous funding to innumerable projects — Islamic and non-Islamic.

The Sultan bin Abdulaziz Foundation and the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Special Committee for Relief have become major vehicles of aid, from providing housing for the poor in Saudi towns and cities to funding the development of science and technology in the Kingdom. Education and training was a particular concern, taking practical form with the Prince Sultan Aviation Academy and the Prince Sultan University.

It was because of his remarkable involvement in so many different aspects of Saudi society and his grasp of its needs that in 1982 Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd made him second deputy premier and later, following on the king’s death in 2005, King Abdullah named him as crown prince and deputy premier.

He was a dedicated statesman, a generous humanitarian; he built up the Kingdom’s defenses. It is almost impossible to envisage anyone else holding the range of posts he did, let alone for so long. He will be very hard to replace.

Our condolences, and we know those of our many readers, go to the royal family at this sad time.