The 84-year-old Saudi leader, King Salman, was admitted to the hospital in the capital Riyadh, suffering from inflammation of the gallbladder, the state-run SPA news agency said on Monday.
The king, who has headed the world’s largest oil exporter and a close ally of the United States since 2015, is undergoing medical checks, the agency added, without giving details.
After the news, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi postponed a planned visit to Saudi Arabia, said Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.
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King Salman, the keeper of Islam’s holiest sites, spent more than two and a half years as Saudi Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister from June 2012 before becoming king. He was also governor of the Riyadh region for more than 50 years.
The de facto ruler and next to the throne is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely referred to as MBS, who has launched reforms to transform the kingdom’s economy and end its “dependence” on oil.
The 34-year-old prince, who is popular with many young Saudis, was praised at home for easing social restrictions in the conservative Muslim kingdom, granting more rights to women and promising to diversify the economy.
For supporters of the king, this boldness at home and abroad was a welcome change after decades of caution, stagnation and procrastination.
But state control of the media and repression of dissent in the kingdom make it difficult to gauge the extent of domestic enthusiasm.
The crown prince’s reforms have been accompanied by a purge of senior royals and businessmen for corruption, and a costly war in Yemen, all of which baffled some Western allies and investors.
His prestige also suffered after the 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi security personnel, considered close to him.