Saudi Arabia’s ageing King Salman chairs cabinet meeting from hospital

RIYADH: Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz has held a cabinet meeting via video call from a hospital in Riyadh, a day after he was admitted to the facility for “medical check,” giving rise to speculation about succession plans by the kingdom’s controversial figure Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

The Saudi state-run television network aired a video of the 84-year-old monarch on Tuesday evening, showing him sitting behind a desk reading and leafing through documents.

Three Saudi sources earlier told Reuters news agency that the king was in stable condition.

The kingdom’s Royal Court had said in a statement Monday that the monarch was undergoing medical tests as a result of cholecystitis, inflammation of the gall bladder, without providing further details.

King Salman last spoke publicly on March 19 in a five-minute televised address about the coronavirus pandemic.

The aging king’s health condition postponed a key visit to Riyadh by new Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

The hospitalization sparked new speculation of succession and regime change plans by the ambitious crown prince and even rumors of the monarch’s death on social media platforms.

The king succeeded his half-brother King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2015. Bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s crown prince on the back of a 2017 palace coup that ousted the then heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Nayef.

Under bin Salman’s watch, Saud Arabia has launched a bloody war on Yemen and intensified a crackdown campaign on dissidents both at home and abroad, among other rights violations.

MBS — seen as the kingdom’s de facto leader — has been under harsh international criticism over the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

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