Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah receives the body of Crown Prince Sultan at Riyadh air base airport

Prince Salman, crown prince’s sons accompany body from U.S. to Riyadh

Arab nations announce mourning as world leaders offer condolences to Saudi Arabia

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah was in the forefront of royals and top officials who were present at Riyadh Air Base to receive the body of Prince Sultan on Monday.

The body arrived at the air base at 7.05 p.m. from New York on a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight. Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior Prince Naif, other princes, Sultan's sons and a large number of citizens were also present at the airport.

Prince Sultan died in a New York hospital on Saturday after a prolonged illness. "The plane carrying the body of Prince Sultan had top Saudi officials on board including Prince Salman, governor of Riyadh," an informed source told Arab News.

The funeral prayer for the late prince will be held at Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque in Riyadh after Asr prayer. A large contingent of world leaders, high-ranking officials and dignitaries are expected to take part in the funeral. King Abdullah has ordered funeral prayers for Prince Sultan at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah and all other mosques in the Kingdom on Tuesday.

Preparations were under way in the Saudi capital for the crown prince's funeral and for receiving top world leaders, who have started arriving in Riyadh.

While the mood is subdued in the Kingdom, there is no official mourning period in line with the teachings of Islam, the source added. A large group of world leaders, royals and officials are expected to jet into the Saudi capital amid tight security on Monday night and Tuesday in a staggered schedule for the funeral, diplomats said.

The US delegation will be led by Vice President Joe Biden, said Mofid H. Deak, a spokesman of the US Embassy.

Prominent among other world leaders attending the funeral will be Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito; Prince Charles, heir to the British throne; Spanish Crown Prince Felipe de Borbon; Sudanese President Omar Bashir; Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah would be among prominent Arab leaders. Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad will lead a three-member Indian delegation.

A large group of Muslim leaders will throng the Saudi capital for the prayers and funeral rites. Funeral prayers are also likely to be offered in different mosques across the Kingdom.

Besides the significant presence of royals and high-ranking officials from the Gulf states, Indonesia is sending a special presidential envoy to attend the funeral, said Indonesian Ambassador Gatot Abdullah Mansyur.

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed has sent his Minister of Islamic Affairs Abdulmajeed Abdulbari as a special envoy to attend the funeral. Senior Saudi officials including Prince Naif, second deputy premier and minister of interior, will lead the procession of thousands of mourners attending prayers and burial service for the crown prince amid tight security.

The prince will be laid to rest at the city's sprawling Al Oud Cemetery in a simple grave in keeping with Islamic burial traditions. The cemetery, where the late King Fahd, King Khaled, King Faisal and Prince Sultan's father King Abdulaziz are also buried, is a common burial ground for the general public as well as for the members of the royal family in Riyadh.

The death of Prince Sultan was met with particular sadness and grief in the Kingdom and across the globe.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Asheikh sent a message of condolence to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, and prayed that Almighty Allah would grant the late prince mercy and forgiveness and reward him for his devoted service to Islam, the Islamic Ummah, and his homeland. Tabuk Gov. Prince Fahd bin Sultan received a large number of mourners at his palace on Sunday.

Over 1,970,000 people searched Google for news about the death of late Prince Sultan, while Arab and international media have been reporting the news of the prince's death since Saturday. The British Guardian newspaper described Prince Sultan as playing a "crucial" role in the region, adding that "Crown Prince Sultan was considered intelligent with innate worldly wisdom, a man on whom the king might rely."

The BBC described the late prince as a "modernizer.” In the US, the Fox News credited Prince Sultan with "closing multi-billion dollar deals to establish the modern Saudi armed forces, including land, air, naval and air defense forces."

The Drudge Report placed a relatively large image of Prince Sultan on the front page of its website, with links to news stories reporting his death, including a link to a Fox News TV report on the death. King Abdullah received condolences from across the world on the prince's death.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Crown Prince of the State of Kuwait, expressed condolences on the death of late Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General.

In a statement after his arrival in Riyadh, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Sabah said that he is conveying the condolence of the Kuwaiti leadership, government and people to the Saudi leadership, government and people on this grave calamity.

He added that the Arab and Islamic nations lost late Prince Sultan, stressing that late Prince Sultan had gigantic contributions in the charitable, humanitarian and social fields.

Speaker of Kuwaiti National Assembly Jassem bin Mohammed Al-Kharafi arrived to offer condolences to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior, the royal family and Saudi people on the demise of late Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General.

At Riyadh airbase, he was received by Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Governor of Riyadh Region, and a number of officials.

Chairman of the Board and Director General of Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) Sheikh Mubarak Al-Duaij Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah has expressed condolences to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the death of late Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General.

In a press statement, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Duaij said that the Arab and Islamic nations lost the late Crown Prince who will long be remembered for the years to come.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Assistant Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, received at Al-Aziziah palace Head of United States (U.S.) Training Mission Brigade Kamenz who offered his condolences on the death of late Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General.

During the reception, Prince Khalid expressed thanks for U.S. official's noble feelings.

The reception was attended by a number of princes and officials.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani of the Republic of Lebanon called to hold funeral prayers in absentia for late Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General.

The Lebanese Grand Mufti asked Director General of Islamic Endowments to inform all Imams of mosques in Lebanon to hold funeral prayers in absentia for late Crown Prince on Friday.

General Michel Suleiman, President of Lebanon, arrived to express condolence to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior, the royal family, and the Saudi people, on the death of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General.

At Riyadh airbase, General Suleiman was received by Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Governor of Riyadh Region, Major General Marwan Abdulhamid Zein, ambassador of Lebanon to Kingdom, and number of officials.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received a telephone call from Prime Minister Najib Mikati of Lebanon.

During the telephone conversation, the Lebanese Prime Minister offered deep condolences to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques on the death of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General.

In return, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques thanked the Lebanese Prime Minister for his noble feelings.

Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, who was buried in Riyadh Tuesday, was a central figure in the world's top oil exporter who dominated defense policy and was long seen as a future king.

A defense minister for almost half a century before becoming crown prince to King Abdullah in 2005, Sultan's powerbase lay in his control of the regular armed forces and his status as one of seven full brothers born to the kingdom's founder King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud by his favorite wife.

He oversaw a defense spending spree which made the kingdom one of the world's biggest arms buyers.

Sultan's death may put in motion for the first time an "allegiance council" consisting of sons and grandsons of the kingdom's founder. The council was set up by his half-brother, King Abdullah, to vote on future kings and their heirs.

Prince Sultan, who was born in 1931, had an intestinal cyst removed in 2005 and had spent several months abroad for treatment and recuperation.

While Saudi Arabia insisted he was fully cured, diplomats in Riyadh said he gradually retreated from participating in decision-making and often worked only for one-two hours a day.

Many of his duties had been informally shifted to other princes, mainly to his son Khaled who led Saudi and Arab forces during the 1991 war to remove Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army from Kuwait. Prince Khaled, who is assistant defense minister, is also the owner of influential pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.

While defense minister, Sultan spent hundreds of billions to modernize the forces of the country where Islam was born 1400 years ago, doubling the regular armed forces to more than 100,000 men and buying advanced arms from all over the world.

Sultan was one of a group of ambitious younger princes groomed for high office at an early age.

In 1947 Sultan's father King Abdulaziz, who conquered most of the Arabian peninsula and established the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, appointed him governor of the capital Riyadh, a key post now held by his younger brother Prince Salman.

He was appointed agriculture minister in the kingdom's first cabinet in 1953 and was made communications minister two years later. In 1962 he was made minister of defense and aviation, a post he has held for nearly five decades.

He had six full brothers, including King Fahd and Prince Naïf, Sultan's likely successor as crown prince.

When his elder brother Fahd became king in 1982, half-brother Abdullah was named his heir. Sultan became second deputy prime minister and thus front runner to become crown prince after Fahd's death.

Born in Riyadh, Sultan was educated by private tutors and spoke some English. He also went to a school for princes.

He was keen to maintain close ties with the West, especially the United States, though like the rest of the royal family he distanced himself from the U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 2003.

Diplomats said he and his full-brothers resisted some of the reforms Abdullah wanted to enact following the September 11 attacks of 2001, which brought unwelcome international attention to Saudi Arabia since most of the attackers were Saudi.

Of his seven sons, Bandar was ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005. Prince Bandar had striven to smooth tensions in the strategic alliance that surfaced after the September 11 attacks.