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Saudi king leaves hospital, TV shows him walking

Saudi king leaves hospital, TV shows him walkingRIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has left a New York hospital in “good health” after a month of treatment, state media said on Wednesday, showing pictures of the elderly monarch walking down a corridor.

Media gave no date for when King Abdullah, who is around 87 and had arrived at the hospital in a wheelchair, might return home.

However, the kingdom is keen to show its allies in Washington and elsewhere that there will be no power vacuum as health problems beset its octogenarian rulers.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that the monarch would stay in New York for recuperation and physiotherapy for an unspecified time, following two operations after a blood clot complicated a slipped disc problem.

“King Abdullah left the Presbyterian Hospital on Tuesday evening … as God gave him good health,” the agency said.

Saudi state television showed King Abdullah slowly walking in what appears to be the first footage of the king for weeks.

Television showed only his upper body and it was unclear whether he was being supported.

On Dec. 3, SPA said he had a successful second operation to stabilise vertebrae in his spinal column, completing earlier surgery after the blood clot.

King Abdullah, who came to power in 2005, is the sixth leader of the OPEC oil exporter and US ally, whose political stability is of regional and global concern. Abdullah started a series of cautious reforms in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia controls more than a fifth of the world’s crude oil reserves and is a major investor in US government bonds.

Crown Prince Sultan, who has health problems of his own, returned from abroad before Abdullah’s departure to govern the world’s largest oil exporter.

With both Abdullah and Sultan in their 80s, speculation arose that conservative Interior Minister Prince Nayef, 76, could take over running the affairs of state some time in the future, casting doubt over Abdullah’s reform plans.

Diplomats in Riyadh have said Western governments are concerned about the fate of social and economic reforms that are currently promoted by Abdullah if Nayef, who is seen as a religious and social traditionalist, ascends to the throne.

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