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Wed 22 Dec 2010 11:09 AM

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Saudi king leaves hospital, TV shows him walking

Media give no date for return to Saudi Arabia; King to stay in New York for recuperation

Saudi king leaves hospital, TV shows him walking
King Abdullah underwent a second successful operation on December 2 to stabilise vertebrae in his spinal column (Getty Images)

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

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

King Abdullah, who came to power in 2005, is the sixth leader of the OPEC
oil exporter and U.S. 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 U.S. 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

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

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