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Tue 22 Feb 2011 11:13 PM

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Saudi king to return home after hospital treatment

King Abdullah to return after hospital stay in New York, national holiday declared to mark his arrival

Saudi king to return home after hospital treatment
Saturday was declared a holiday at Saudi state institutions, schools and universities to mark the return of the king

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah will return to the kingdom on Wednesday afternoon following medical treatment, state television reported on Tuesday.

A statement announcing the expected return of the king was read on television, which also aired footage of the ageing monarch during past public ceremonies.

Abdullah, believed to be around 87, travelled to the US in November for treatment to a herniated disk which caused blood accumulation around the spine.

He has been recuperating in Morocco for the past four weeks, after undergoing surgery in New York.

Saturday was declared a holiday at Saudi state institutions, schools and universities to mark the return of the king, the television said.

During the king's absence, his brother Crown Prince Sultan was in charge but doubts remain over his health because he was abroad much of the past two years for illness.

Political stability in the top OPEC producer is of global concern as Saudi Arabia controls more than a fifth of oil reserves, is a major holder of dollar assets and a vital regional US ally.

Riyadh has been keen to show its allies there will be no power vacuum despite its octogenarian rulers' health problems. But Abdullah's medical troubles have roused concern over whether he will be succeeded by a reformist like himself or a conservative.