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Saudi Arabia's King Salman undergoes successful gall bladder surgery

The 84-year-old monarch was admitted to hospital earlier this week after developing an inflamed gall bladder
King Salman held a video conference call a day after he was admitted to hospital (AFP)

Saudi Arabia's King Salman's surgery to remove his gall bladder was successful after he was admitted to hospital earlier this week, state news agency SPA said on Thursday.

The 84-year-old monarch, who has ruled the world's largest oil exporter since 2015, will stay in hospital for some time to receive treatment, SPA reported.

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King Salman, the custodian of Islam's holiest sites, was admitted to hospital in the capital Riyadh, suffering from inflammation of the gallbladder on Monday.

A day after he was admitted, the king held a cabinet meeting via video call from the hospital.

King Salman could be seen behind a desk going through documents and reading papers on his desk.

Reuters said 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 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.