The much-anticipated visit by US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle to Agra to view the Taj Majal has been cancelled and the US first couple would instead head to Riyadh to condole the passing away of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the White House said Saturday.
Obama and Michelle “will travel to Riyadh Tuesday in order to pay respects to King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the family of the late king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz”, the White House said.
Obama arrives in India Sunday on a three-day visit. He was to visit Agra Jan 27.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement that Vice President Joe Biden was “originally to have led a delegation to Saudi Arabia on the president’s behalf”.
“As the president’s and vice president’s travel schedules became clearer, we determined that the window when the vice president would be on the ground in Riyadh coincided with the president’s departure from India.
“Accordingly, we adjusted the schedule in coordination with the Indian government so that the president would be able to depart India following his speech Tuesday to stop in Riyadh during the return trip to meet with King Salman and other Saudi officials and offer his condolences on behalf of the American people.”
The White House said Obama “regrets that he will be unable to visit Agra during this trip”.
“The vice president will remain in Washington,” the statement added.
On Jan 27, Obama will give a talk at Siri Fort in New Delhi on the subject “India and America: The future we can build together”, before flying to Riyadh in the afternoon.
An official said advance teams of the US Secret Service and other officials have returned from Agra.
The cancellation saves the city from total shutdown of mobile services for three hours besides overwhelming presence of securitymen throughout the city.