Saudi Arabia’s 84- year old ruler, king Salman bin Abdulaziz, has been admitted to hospital in the capital Riyadh. The hospital reports indicate that he is suffering from inflammation of the gall bladder, state run Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday 20 July.
King Salman, the custodian of Islam’s holiest sites spent more than two and a half years as the Saudi crown prince and deputy premier from June 2012 before becoming king later in 2015 following the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah. He also served as governor of the Riyadh region for more than 50 years.
The incumbent king’s son and next in line to the throne is the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is considered the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. He is a favorite of many especially the young Saudis because he has launched reforms to transform the kingdom’s economy and end its dependency to oil.
The 34 year old prince has won praise at home for easing social restrictions in the conservative Muslim kingdom, giving more rights to women and pledging to diversify the economy. The crown prince’s reforms have been accompanied by a purge of top royals and businessmen on charges of corruption and a costly war in Yemen.
After the news of king Salman’s illness, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi postponed a visit scheduled to Saudi Arabia.
“In recognition of the importance of the visit and a desire to make it succeed, our wise leadership in coordination with our brothers in Iraq has decided to postpone the visit,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign affairs of Saudi Arabia wrote on twitter.
Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East, it has the world’s second largest proven petroleum reserves, its the largest exporter of petroleum, and is considered an energy superpower.