- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 28, 2005

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — King Fahd remained in hospital yesterday with a lung infection as worries about his health sent crude prices higher and the authorities insisted there was no cause for concern.

“His condition is stable. … The results of medical tests make us reassured,” Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters.

It was the first official reference to the outcome of the examinations conducted after Fahd was taken to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center Friday evening.

The monarch, believed to be 82, has been frail since suffering a stroke a decade ago and has delegated the running of day-to-day affairs to his half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah.

Saud did not give details, but official sources earlier told Agence France-Presse that Fahd had a lung infection.

Abdullah, who is expected to succeed Fahd eventually, has long represented Riyadh at meetings with world leaders, visiting President Bush at his Texas ranch last month for the second time in three years.

The foreign minister’s remarks were in line with previous official statements reporting that Fahd was in good shape after he was admitted to hospital for medical tests.

Officials also dismissed reports that a state of alert has been declared in the vast kingdom, which has been battling a wave of violence by suspected al Qaeda militants for the past two years.

“We have a law of governance. There is a crown prince, and if you ask any Saudi who will be the next king, he will answer you,” a senior Saudi official said on the condition of anonymity, referring to a document promulgated by Fahd in 1992.

The situation on the streets of the capital was normal with no apparent extra police deployment except outside the hospital where the monarch was being treated.

“People don’t expect anything abnormal to happen, so there was actually no need to take any extra security measure whatsoever,” Interior Ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki said.

He earlier denied reports that a state of alert was declared in the kingdom, which sits on a quarter of global oil reserves. However, oil markets reacted nervously to the news from Saudi Arabia, which is currently pumping 9.5 million barrels per day and has declared readiness to boost production to meet surging global demand.

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