Saudi Arabia's King Fahd Dead

Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, ruler of the world's top oil-producing nation, died early today, the Saudi royal court said. He was said to be 84 years old.

"With all sorrow and sadness, the royal court in the name of his highness Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and all members of the family announces the death of the custodian of the two holy mosques, King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz," according to a statement read on state-run Saudi TV by the country's information minister.

Fahd died at approximately 2:30 a.m. ET, at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where he was admitted on May 27 for unspecified medical tests, an official at the hospital told The Associated Press. Saudi official sources had said then said that the monarch had been running a fever and "had water in his lungs" which required hospitalization. The king's funeral reportedly is scheduled for Tuesday.

The king has had a less-prominent role in Saudi Arabian affairs since suffering a stroke in 1995, but he has kept the country involved in international affairs. Despite the cooling of relations since 2001, he remained a close ally of the United States.

His half-brother Crown Prince Abdullah, 81, has been running the kingdom since his illness and has been appointed the new king. According to the Saudi statement said the new King Abdullah announced that his half brother and the Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, 77, would be the nation's next crown prince.

Learning the Ropes

King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud was born in the early 1920s in Riyadh. His exact birthdate is unknown, but Saudi TV today said the king was 84. He was the son of King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, the founder of the kingdom, and Hassa bint Ahmadi al-Sudayri. He was one of seven sons born to King Abd-al-Aziz's favorite wife.

He attended the palace school and later learned the ropes at his father's court. From an early age, he was exposed to domestic and international political events. He was a youngster in 1932 when the kingdom was officially founded, and by his early 20s he was helping out his brother Faisal, who was then foreign minister. In 1945, the brothers attended the signing of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco. In 1953, he was the sole Saudi Arabian representative at Queen Elizabeth II's coronation and later became the nation's first minister of education.

In the 1950s, Fahd supported Faisal in a squabble with their eldest brother, King Saud, over the throne. The line of succession to the Saudi throne passes through the sons of the late King Abdul Aziz in order of seniority unless someone gives up his right voluntarily. When a king takes over, he appoints the new crown prince and heir-apparent with the consultation of the senior princes of the royal family.

Faisal secured the crown in 1964 and rewarded Fahd by appointing him second deputy prime minister three years later. When Faisal was assassinated in 1975, Khalid bin Abdul Aziz, another of Fahd's brothers, became the king. Fahd was named crown prince and first deputy prime minister. Due to Khalid's poor health, Fahd took over more and more of the palace affairs.

On Khalid's death in 1982, Fahd became the king and prime minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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