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Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah, a sign of how important the relationship with the powerful kingdom is to the United States. "In the coming days, I will be leading a presidential delegation representing the United States to pay our respects and offer condolences to King Abdullah's family and nation," according to a statement issued by the vice president's office late on Thursday.

"Jill and I were saddened to learn of the passing of King Abdullah. We extend our sympathies to his family in their moment of loss," the statement added. "King Abdullah's death is a great loss for his country. It is hard to distinguish him from Saudi Arabia itself. Over many decades, he played an outsized role in building his country."

"I always appreciated [King Abdullah's] frankness, his sense of history, his pride in his efforts to move his country forward, and his steadfast belief in the U.S.-Saudi relationship," it added.

While the king's funeral will be held on Friday, the country will be in mourning for three days. His successor, half-brother Deputy Prime Minister Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, became king immediately after his death.


— F. Brinley Bruton

Reuters contributed to this report.