RIYADH, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah was
admitted to a hospital in Riyadh on Friday night to undergo back
surgery to tighten a loose ligament, the state's SPA news agency
The king, in his late 80s, underwent an operation to tighten
ligaments around his third vertebra in October of last year and
had two rounds of back surgery in the United States in 2010
after suffering a herniated disc, leading to a three-month
recuperation period outside the kingdom.
The stability of Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil
exporter and a key U.S. ally, is of global concern. The kingdom
holds more than a fifth of world crude reserves and is the
birthplace of Islam.
"The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin
Abdulaziz al-Saud, may God keep him, arrived at the National
Guard's King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh, where a surgery
will be performed ... to tighten a loose ligament in the upper
back," SPA said.
His heir apparent, Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz,
normally acts as his deputy in his absence.
King Abdullah, who took power in 2005 after the death of
King Fahd, named his brother, 13 years his junior, heir apparent
in June after the death of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz.
Unlike in European monarchies, the line of succession does
not move directly from father to eldest son, but has moved down
a line of brothers born to the kingdom's founder King Abdulaziz
Ibn Saud, who died in 1953.
While it faced some protests from minority Shi'ite Muslims
in its Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia avoided the kind of unrest
that toppled leaders across the Arab world last year after it
introduced generous social spending packages and issued a
religious edict banning public demonstrations.