Saudi King admitted to hospital for back operation -SPA

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

said.

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.

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