Saudi king to visit US today for medical checks | Pakistan Today

Saudi king to visit US today for medical checks

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz will leave for the United States on Monday for medical checks, while Crown Prince Sultan will return from a holiday abroad, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.
The Gulf Arab state controls more than a fifth of the world’s crude reserves, is a vital US ally in the region, a major holder of dollar assets and home to the biggest Arab bourse.
Western diplomats said the king’s departure and crown prince’s sudden return indicate the absolute monarchy, which has no political parties or elected parliament, is seeking to prevent a power vacuum and reassure Washington and other allies.
Abdullah, seen by Washington as a moderate at the helm of a pivotal Muslim country, was admitted to hospital on Friday after a blood clot complicated a slipped disc he suffered the week before. “The king will leave on Monday for the US to complete medical tests,” the news agency said.
Crown Prince Sultan, who has had unspecified health problems over the past two years, meanwhile would return to Saudi Arabia on Sunday evening from Morocco where he has been since August. The king is thought to be 86 or 87 and Sultan is only a few years younger.
The US is keen to see reforms continue after the Sept 11 attacks of 2001 on US cities brought Saudi Arabia’s puritanical Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam to the top of global concerns. Fifteen of the 19 al Qaeda attackers were Saudi. Saudi Arabia has become key to global efforts to fight al Qaeda.
A Saudi intelligence tip-off helped Western governments stop package bombs destined for the United States that were sent on planes out of Yemen last month. Interior Minister Prince Nayef, comparatively youthful at around 76, was appointed second deputy prime minister in 2009 in a move which analysts say will secure leadership in the event of serious health problems afflicting the king and crown prince.
The position does not guarantee that Nayef would become king but places him in a strong position. Analysts see jostling for position at the top of the ruling family. Last week, the king transferred control of the National Guard, an elite Bedouin corps that handles domestic security, to his son Mitab.
With both the king and crown prince indisposed, Prince Nayef has featured heavily in state media over the past week. The veteran security chief was in an ebullient mood when he met reporters in Mecca before the haj pilgrimage last week and state media made a formal announcement that he would oversee the haj in the king’s place, receiving guests there in recent days.

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