WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama will trade the fabled Taj Mahal for an imposing Saudi Arabian palace next week, cutting his trip to India short “to pay respects” to the new Saudi king, the White House said Saturday.

The schedule change came just hours before Obama departed Washington early Saturday morning for his three-day trip to India, with a short stopover in Germany.

Obama was due to arrive in New Delhi on Sunday for a three-day trip, and will attend the Republic Day parade at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

King Abdullah died on Friday after a short illness and has been succeeded by his elderly brother Salman, raising concerns about political stability in Saudi Arabia, a longstanding US ally and the world’s leading oil exporter. The White House said on Friday that Obama would speak with King Salman in the next few days, but has not said that he would meet the new king.

Obama’s early departure from India would cause him to skip a planned excursion to the Taj Mahal, a 17th century mausoleum that is one of the world’s architectural wonders, but not affect the substance of his second visit to India.

He is due to hold summit talks on Sunday, attend Monday’s military parade and give a speech on Tuesday morning before his early departure, said the sources who requested anonymity pending a statement from the White House.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito will visit Saudi Arabia on Saturday and Sunday to offer condolences. Muslim leaders paid their respects on Friday at Abdullah’s funeral in Riyadh. Some international human rights groups, meanwhile, have called on Western leaders to condemn Saudi Arabia’s record of crushing dissent and depriving women and foreign workers of rights instead of praising its late king.

Salman takes charge in Saudi Arabia at a time of deep uncertainty in the kingdom, surrounded by a region in tumult and nervous about both Iranian influence and the spread of militants. The kingdom’s role in orchestrating Arab support for joint action with Western countries against the Islamic State group has won praise in Washington, while its role as biggest oil exporter is particularly important at this time of market instability. Saudi jets have bombed IS targets in Syria, its top clerics have issued repeated denunciations of the militant group despite similarities between its ideology and Wahhabism, and the police have detained thousands of militant suspects in the past decade.

In the meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for a rare visit to the regional rival, bringing condolences after the death of King Abdullah, television pictures showed.

Saudi officials greeted Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif after he landed at a military airport in the capital Riyadh. Iran and Saudi Arabia, the region’s foremost Shiite and Sunni Muslim powers, have had troubled relations in recent years after taking different sides in the Syrian civil war.

Tehran has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while Riyadh supported Sunni rebels trying to topple him. Zarif has previously declined a Saudi invitation to visit the kingdom, citing continued negotiations between his country and international powers over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme. In August last year Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian held talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

That was the first high-level Iranian visit to the kingdom since Hassan Rouhani became the Islamic republic’s president a year earlier. They discussed the fight against Islamic State group jihadists, who both nations oppose. Rouhani has stated his wish to improve relations with Iran’s neighbours, especially Saudi Arabia.

Since the June 2013 election of Rouhani, regarded as a moderate, Iran has engaged in a diplomatic push with Riyadh but relations have soured in recent months over the falling global price of oil. Both countries are members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries but Iranian officials have expressed frustration at Saudi Arabia for not taking steps to cut supply. Iran has been among the oil exporting countries worst hit by the price fall. Rouhani expressed his condolences after the death on Friday of Saudi King Abdullah, who has been succeeded by his half-brother Salman.