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Saudi Arabia's King Salman chairs cabinet meeting from hospital

King, 84, seen in video call behind a desk a day after being diagnosed with inflammation of the gall bladder
King Salman received phone calls from the leaders of Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan on Monday, state media reported (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia's King Salman held a cabinet meeting via video call from hospital in the capital Riyadh on Tuesday, a day after the 84-year-old monarch was admitted with what state media said was inflammation of the gall bladder.

Three Saudi sources had previously told Reuters that the king was in stable condition at the King Faisal specialist hospital.

A video of the king chairing the meeting was broadcast on Saudi state TV on Tuesday evening. 

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In the video, which has no sound, King Salman can be seen behind a desk, wordlessly reading and leafing through documents.

The king, who has ruled the world's largest oil exporter and close US ally since 2015, was undergoing medical checks, state media on Monday cited a Royal Court statement as saying without further details.

Three well-connected Saudi sources who declined to be identified, two of whom were speaking late on Monday and one on Tuesday, told Reuters the king was "fine".

An official in the region, who requested anonymity, said he spoke to one of King Salman's sons on Monday who seemed "calm" and that there was no sense of panic about the monarch's health.

King Salman received phone calls from the leaders of Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan on Monday, state media reported.

Crown prince cancels meeting

A diplomatic source said the kingdom's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, flew back to the capital on Monday from his palace in the Red Sea city of Neom, cancelling a planned meeting with a visiting Iraqi delegation.

The diplomatic source and the third Saudi source said the crown prince was still in the capital.

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

State media have published pictures and videos of the king chairing online weekly cabinet meetings. 

Media have also carried images of the crown prince attending those meetings online.

Some commentators have voiced concerns about whether the king will be able to chair the G20 Riyadh summit, which is due to be held in November. 

King Salman, the custodian of Islam's holiest sites, spent more than two and a half years as the Saudi crown prince and was deputy prime minister from June 2012 before becoming king. 

He also served as governor of the Riyadh region for several decades.

Khashoggi killing

King Salman named Mohammed as crown prince to become next in line to the throne after a 2017 palace coup that ousted then-Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

The crown prince's economic and social reforms have been accompanied by a purge of top royals and businessmen on charges of corruption, and a costly war in Yemen.

The CIA has concluded that the crown prince was behind the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018.

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Bin Salman has denied any knowledge of the killing of the Middle East Eye and Washington Post columnist.

King Salman took the throne after the death of his half-brother Abdullah, who was 90.

In 2017, Saudi Arabia denied media reports that the king was planning to abdicate in favour of his son.

The hospital treating King Salman has been the subject of controversy in recent months.

Medical sources in the hospital told Middle East Eye in March that the hospital had been closed to all but emergency cases after a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus.

As many as 12 people inside the hospital had tested positive for the virus, but the exact number was not known because testing was limited, a medical source inside the hospital told MEE.

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