World Bulletin / News Desk
A rare visit to Egypt by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, expected in Cairo on Friday evening, underlines the strong support the ageing monarch is showing for new president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Analysts say the Gulf kingdom wants Egypt to be a bulwark amid raging conflict in Iraq and Syria that could alter regional alliances and national borders.
The 90-year-old Saudi king has offered some of the most vocal support for Sisi since last July, when the then-army chief ousted the President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Through phone calls to Sisi, donations of cash and petroleum products and supportive statements, Abdullah has positioned himself as Sisi's leading Arab ally.
Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, and its wealthy Gulf Arab partners Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have given more than $20 billion to help Egypt since Morsi's overthrow, Sisi said last month, and are likely to pledge more.
Less than 15 minutes after Sisi was officially declared president earlier this month, Abdullah issued warm congratulations and called for a donor conference to help Egypt "overcome its economic difficulties".
He urged Egyptians to disown the "strange chaos" of the Arab uprisings, saying Egypt "needs us today more than ever".
The monarch was the only foreign leader Sisi mentioned by name in his first speech as president, when he thanked the king for organising the funding conference.
Abdullah, expected to stop in Cairo later on Friday on his way home from Morocco, will be the first foreign leader to visit Sisi since he took office less than two weeks ago.
It is Abdullah's first visit to Cairo since the 2011 revolt that ousted autocrat President Hosni Mubarak, a key ally of Saudi Arabia and the United States. The monarch's advanced age and frail health mean he rarely travels on state business.
BUILDING A "SUNNI WALL"
Sisi served as defence attache in Riyadh during Mubarak's rule before eventually rising to the post of head of military intelligence, his last job under Mubarak.
Abdullah and Sisi have spoken on the phone since Sisi's ouster of Morsi, but it is unclear if they have ever met.
The most populous Arab state, Egypt also has the largest army in the Middle East, though the military's main focus has been domestically driven for decades.
Sisi has not spoken publicly about the Iraqi crisis since it erupted days after his inauguration.
Western governments including Washington have signalled concern with Egypt's widespread crackdown on dissent since Sisi toppled Morsi last summer.
Ties between Saudi Arabia and the United States are under strain over policy towards Syria and Iran, and Riyadh's full-throated endorsement of another military man in Egypt appears to be another point of disagreement between the allies.Last Mod: 21 Haziran 2014, 14:52