Elderly rulers of oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Kuwait in hospital

King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia is undergoing medical tests at King Faisal Specialist Hospital after being diagnosed with an inflamed gallbladder.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia is undergoing medical tests at King Faisal Specialist Hospital after being diagnosed with an inflamed gallbladder.

RIYADH • King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia was admitted to a hospital in Riyadh early yesterday for medical tests, the second elderly ruler of an oil-rich Gulf Arab nation to be hospitalised in less than a week.

Saudi Arabia's 84-year-old monarch was undergoing medical tests at King Faisal Specialist Hospital after being diagnosed with an inflamed gallbladder, state-run Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a statement from the royal court. There were no further details about his condition.

On Sunday, Kuwait abruptly announced that its 91-year-old emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, had been admitted to hospital the previous day for check-ups and undergone "successful surgery".

Kuwait's Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah has temporarily assumed some of his functions and duties.

Their hospitalisations add to the uncertainty that is besetting the governments of these leading oil producers as they try to battle the twin crises of crude market turmoil and the coronavirus pandemic.

Saudi officials have previously said King Salman is in good physical health and have dismissed speculation that he will abdicate in favour of his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

But in practice, it is the crown prince who has been the country's de facto ruler since 2017, when he pushed aside an older cousin in a seismic shift in the long-standing practice of sharing power between different branches of the family.

Under Crown Prince Mohammed's direction, the world's biggest crude exporter has, along with Russia, pushed members of the Opec cartel and its allies to reduce oil production and prop up prices in the face of the pandemic.

Those cuts, which have resulted in Brent crude prices more than doubling since mid-April to US$43 a barrel, are set to be eased next month.

Saudi Arabia pumped 10.1 million barrels of crude a day last year, 12 per cent of the world's total, according to BP. Kuwait, Opec's fourth-biggest producer, pumped about 2.7 million barrels daily.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2020, with the headline 'Elderly rulers of oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Kuwait in hospital'. Subscribe