Lebanese leaders described the late Saudi King Abduallah as “Lebanon’s greatest friend” and biggest supporter as the country announced Friday three days of mourning
A delegation that includes Speaker Nabih Berri , Prime Minister Tammam Salam and several MPS and ministers headed to Saudi Arabia Saturday to pay respect to King Salman, Crown Prince Muqrin and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef .
The Saudi Embassy in Lebanon announced that it would be receiving condolences over three days Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in Downtown Beirut.
Salam said that Lebanon had lost the wisest of Arabs and a great friend of Lebanon.
“It is with great sorrow and grief that we announce to the Lebanese the [death] of the wisest of Arabs and Lebanon’s greatest friend, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, his Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, after a long life of service to his country and [Arab] nation,” Salam said.
He said with the death of King Abdullah: “Lebanon lost [a figure of] support and backing who always stood by his side in times of crisis, and never hesitated to extend a helping hand.”
Salam praised him for what he said were his numerous initiatives that were aimed at boosting Lebanon’s national unity, peace and security.
Lebanon and other Arab and Muslim countries “lost a unique, courageous leader who had always upheld their causes and concerns.”
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri called on fellow Lebanese to mourn King Abdullah “who has continually offered support for Lebanon.”
“The Arab and Islamic nation lost a brilliant leader and an exceptional figure, who marked the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the region with great achievements and initiatives that will remain a benchmark for political interaction, economic progress and social growth for the kingdom and its Arab surrounding,” Hariri said in a statement.
Hariri called on the Lebanese people, “who always had a special place in the heart of King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, that rose to the level of a father-son relationship,” to declare a day of mourning in all areas “as an expression of popular loyalty to a man who always supported Lebanon and stood by it in the most difficult times.”
In an interview with Al-Arabiya later in the day, Hariri recalled a phone call he received from Abdullah after jihadi gunmen overran Lebanon’s northeastern border of Arsal last summer.
“He offered a lot to the Lebanese Army, and he believed that he should support the fight against terrorism in Lebanon. He therefore gave Lebanon a $1 billion grant to fight this kind of terrorism and extremists,” he said.
“He called me that day, late at night, and insisted on the announcement of this grant, because he saw the gravity of extremism.”
The $1 billion donation was in addition to another $3 billion donation the king made 8 months earlier to the Lebanese army
In a separate interview with Future News TV, Hariri said that ties between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia would not change under King Salman, who he said was a great admirer of Lebanon.
Hariri took part in King Abdullah’s funeral in Riyadh.
Former Lebanese president and Phalange Party leader Amine Gemayel offered his condolences as well to King Salman. “We were bereaved with the passing away of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, who was a friend of Lebanon and a brother of all the Lebanese under all circumstances,” Gemayel said in a cable.
“When I was a president and even after that, I personally felt how much he cares about Lebanon,” he added.
Lebanese Forces chief and presidential candidate Samir Geagea traveled to Saudi Arabia at the head of a party delegation to offer his condolences to the new Saudi leadership for the death of King Abdullah.
Geagea, held a special press conference yesterday to pay tribute to the late king. He lauded Abdullah for “boosting dialogue between religions and civilizations”
Grand Mufti Abdel Latif Derian announced three days of mourning in all the institutions affiliated with Dar al-Fatwa in addition to holding a special “prayer for the dead” in all of Lebanon’s Sunni mosques following the Friday sermon.
“The whole world suffered a big loss with the [death] of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, a pioneer in moderation and openness in the Muslim world,” Derian said in a statement Friday.
PSP leader MP Walid Jumblatt tweeted: “The great Arab knight departed…”
In a second tweet Jumblatt praised King Abdullah whom he described as the biggest friend of his slain father Kamal Jumblatt who was assassinated in 1977 during the early years of Lebanon’s civil war.