Saudi Arabia's King Salman chaired an online Cabinet meeting from hospital in Riyadh on Tuesday, indicating the monarch is in a stable condition after being admitted for treatment of gall bladder inflammation.
The illness of the 84-year-old King has raised worries about political stability in the world’s largest oil exporter.
A video of the monarch chairing the meeting was broadcast on Saudi state television on Tuesday evening.
Iraq leader puts off meeting
The hospitalisation on Monday prompted postponement of a visit to Riyadh by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi who is now visiting Iran at the head of a high-ranking delegation to discuss energy and economic co-operation.
The king, who has been in power since 2015, was undergoing medical checks, a Royal Court statement indicated without further details.
Three 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”.
He received phone calls from the leaders of Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan on Monday, state media reported.
MbS flies in
A diplomatic source said powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman flew back to Riyadh on Monday from his palace on the Red Sea city coast, cancelling a planned meeting with a visiting Iraqi delegation.
Mohammed bin Salman — known as MbS — is the de facto ruler and next in line to the Saudi throne. He was appointed to his role after staging a palace coup three years ago which saw the removal of former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.
The Crown 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.
He has, however, been criticised for Saudi involvement in Yemen's civil war and attempts to silence dissident and consolidate power by marginalising rivals, including a purge of top royals and businessmen on corruption charges.
MbS’s image has also been severely tarnished following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018 at the hands of Saudi security personnel seen as close to him.
Saudi stability is vital to the security of oil supplies since it ranks as the world’s largest oil exporter, which also keeps a significant spare capacity to ensure stable oil prices.
At the same time, the 91-year-old emir of neighbouring Kuwait underwent a “successful” surgery on Sunday that required the crown prince of the oil-rich nation to be temporarily empowered to serve in his place.
Kuwait has yet to explain why the emir, Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Sabah, needed to seek a previously unannounced medical treatment beginning Saturday.
Political analysts say Sheikh Sabah’s sudden surgery could renew a power struggle within Kuwait’s ruling family.
The state-run KUNA news agency described Sheikh Sabah’s hospitalisation as “medical checks,” citing a statement from the country’s royal court.
KUNA also published a report saying that the 83-year-old crown prince, Nawaf Al al-Ahmad al Sabah, had assumed some of Sheikh Sabah’s powers temporarily.