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Middle East
Saudi king leaves hospital
The 86-year old monarch leaves hospital in good health following a successful second surgery to repair spinal column.
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2010 09:03 GMT
King Abdullah was flown to the US for treatment for a blood clot pressing on the nerves in his back [AFP]

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has left a New York hospital in good health, the kingdom's state news agency reported on Wednesday.

"King Abdullah left the Presbyterian Hospital on Tuesday evening...as God gave him good health," the Saudi Press Agency said. "He moved to his place of residence in New York to recuperate and continue with physical therapy," the statement said but did not say when he might return to Saudi Arabia.

Earlier in December, 86-year-old king, had a successful second operation in the United States to stabilise vertebrae in his spinal column.

He was flown to the US to undergo the treatment after being diagnosed with a blood clot pressing on the nerves in his back.

King Abdullah handed over power to Crown Prince Sultan when he travelled to the US for treatment.

Before the king headed for New York, Saudi officials had been making a strong push to reassure the public and international allies there was nothing to worry about.

Crown Prince Sultan, who has health problems of his own, returned to Saudi Arabia from abroad to govern the country while his half-brother is away for an unspecified period.

The 85-year-old Sultan, who is also the defence and aviation minister, underwent surgery at the same hospital in New York in February 2009 for an undisclosed illness and spent nearly a year abroad recuperating in the US and in Morocco.

Succession plan

With both King Abdullah and Sultan in their 80s, the next in line is likely to be Prince Nayef, the 76-year-old interior minister.

Nayef would still need the approval of Saudi Arabia's "Allegiance Council" to become king.

King Abdullah appointed his half-brother Nayef second deputy prime minister in 2009 in a move that analysts say will secure the leadership in the event of serious health problems afflicting the king and crown prince and improve Nayef's chances of one day becoming king.

Diplomats in Riyadh say Western governments are concerned about the fate of social and economic reforms promoted by King Abdullah and have reservations about the ascent of Nayef, seen as a religious and social traditionalist.

The royal Al Saud family has ruled the kingdom for the past 60 years.

King Abdullah assumed the throne in August 2005 after the death of his long-ailing half brother, Fahd.

In 2006, he set up the Allegiance Council, a body comprising of close relatives, to vote by a secret ballot to choose future kings and crown princes.

The council's mandate will not start until after the reigns of King Abdullah and Sultan are over.

Saudi Arabia's political stability is of regional and global concern. It controls more than a fifth of the world's crude oil reserves, and is a vital US ally in the region. It's also a major holder of dollar assets and home to the biggest Arab stock exchange.

Source:
Agencies
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