Saudi king leaves France after 8-day stay after controversy

AP , Monday 3 Aug 2015

The Saudi king's visit to his family's French Riviera mansion is over after weeks of controversy surrounding the closure of a public beach during his stay, the top state official in the area said on Monday.

Sub-prefect Philippe Castanet said that the small, isolated beach was reopened after the departure Sunday of King Salman following an eight-day stay.

Castanet said in an email to The Associated Press that the king had left as planned.

"There is nothing abnormal about his departure after eight days," Castanet said.

Workers were seen on Monday dismantling a temporary elevator leading from the beach to the mansion overlooking the Mediterranean. Among the conditions for installing the elevator was that it would be dismantled once the king left.

The king arrived with an entourage of more than 500. Reports put his staff at 1,000, a number not officially confirmed. Despite complaints about the closure of the beach, the presence of so many Saudis was seen as a boon to the region, including nearby Cannes, where many stayed.

Jean-Noel Falcou, a town councilor in Vallauris who had mounted a petition against the closure of the beach, said in a blog post Monday that King Salman had left for Morocco.

"All that for just eight days of vacation for the Saudi king," Falcou wrote.

Beachgoers had briefly won a halt to the preparations for his arrival, delaying the elevator construction and closure of the beach.

Falcou's group had planned to deliver a petition against the closure on Tuesday, the anniversary of the 1789 abolition of feudalism in France.

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