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15 July 2024

Saudi king arrives in Morocco after US surgery: SPA


Saudi King Abdullah arrived in Casablanca, Morocco on Saturday to convalesce two months after undergoing back surgery in the United States, the official SPA news agency reported.

"King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud arrived in Casablanca in the Kingdom of Morocco from New York to complete physical therapy and recovery," said the report.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI met King Abdullah at Casablanca airport, it added.

The Saudi king flew to New York on November 22 and was operated on two days later for a debilitating herniated disc complicated by a haematoma that put pressure on his spine.

That surgery was declared a success, as was a second operation to repair several vertebrae.

King Abdullah said this week that he was in good health and that he had been following developments in the oil-rich kingdom.

"I want to assure all that I am in good health and will return soon, very soon to the kingdom to be among my family and people," the octagenarian monarch was quoted as saying by Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah on Monday.

On December 22, Saudi television had shown Abdullah walking with difficulty and smiling at hospital staff as he left the facility for a period of convalescence and physiotherapy at his New York residence.

The monarch's advanced age combined with his back hernia raised concerns about the future of the world's biggest oil exporter, which has been ruled by the Al-Saud family since 1932.

The crown prince, Abdullah's half brother Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who has been defence minister since 1962, is also in his mid-80s and has been slowed by what is believed to be cancer.

Little seen for the past two years, Sultan returned from Morocco on November 21 to assume control of the royal government in Abdullah's absence.

Saudi Arabia is a close ally of the United States, and Washington has pressed Riyadh to crack down on Islamic militants and help counter the threat it says is posed by Iran.

US President Barack Obama called the monarch on December 26 to hail his recovery "progress," the White House said.

After months of talks the United States, announced in September last year that it plans to offer Saudi Arabia 60 billion dollars worth of hi-tech fighter jets and helicopters, in the largest US arms deal ever.

King Abdullah is credited with advancing much-needed reforms in the ultra-conservative Islamic state since he became king in 2005.

Any hint at possible change in the absolute monarchy, founded in 1932, is keenly watched as the OPEC kingpin pumps about 8.2 million barrels of crude per day.