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first_imgRAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — President Barack Obama will shorten his trip to India and divert to Saudi Arabia, paying respects after the death of King Abdullah and meeting with the oil-rich nation’s new monarch, the White House said Saturday.The scheduling shift, announced just before Obama left Washington, underscores the desert kingdom’s pivotal role in U.S. policy in the Middle East, including the military campaign against the Islamic State group.Saudi Arabia’s status as one of Washington’s most important Arab allies has at times appeared to trump U.S. concerns about the terrorist funding that flows from the kingdom and about human rights abuses.White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama would meet on Tuesday with King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and other officials to “offer his condolences on behalf of the American people.”The president called Salman from Air Force One to express his sympathies on the passing of his older brother. The White House said the king welcomed the news that Obama would be traveling to Riyadh.last_img read more