Saudi king chairs cabinet meeting from hospital, condition stable

The 84-year-old monarch was admitted to hospital with what state media said was an inflammation of the gall bladder.

FILE PHOTO: Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz delivers a televised speech regarding the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz delivers a televised speech regarding COVID-19 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on March 19, 2020 [File: Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via Reuters]

Saudi King Salman held a cabinet meeting via video call from hospital in the capital Riyadh on Tuesday, a day after the 84-year-old monarch had been admitted with what state media said was inflammation of the gall bladder.

A video of the king chairing the meeting was broadcast on Saudi state TV on Tuesday evening. In the video, which had no sound, King Salman could be seen behind a desk, reading and leafing through documents.

The king, who has ruled the oil-rich country and close United States ally since 2015, was undergoing medical checks, state media on Monday cited a royal court statement as saying without providing further details.

Three well-connected Saudi sources who declined to be identified, two of whom were speaking late on Monday and one on Tuesday, told Reuters the king was “fine”.

An official in the region, who requested anonymity, said he spoke to one of King Salman’s sons on Monday who seemed “calm” and that there was no sense of panic about the monarch’s health.

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King Salman received phone calls from the leaders of Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan on Monday, state media reported.

A diplomatic source said the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman flew back to Riyadh on Monday from his palace in the Red Sea city of NEOM, cancelling a planned meeting with a visiting Iraqi delegation.

The diplomatic source and the third Saudi source said the crown prince was still in the capital.

King Salman last spoke publicly on March 19 in a five-minute televised address about the coronavirus pandemic.

The monarch is the custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, spent more than two and a half years as the Saudi crown prince and was deputy prime minister from June 2012 before becoming king. He also served as governor of the Riyadh region for more than 50 years.

He named his young son Mohammed, also known as MBS, as crown prince and next in line to the throne after a 2017 palace coup that ousted then-Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

Source: Reuters