Jordan prays as its king returns to die

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The Independent Online
KING HUSSEIN returned to die in Jordan yesterday after treatment for his cancer in the US failed. He was rushed from the aircraft in an ambulance to a closely guarded hospital where, a palace official said, he was "near death".

In Amman, mosques were packed with people praying for his recovery. "I hope God gives him more days," said one Jordanian who had just left a mosque. "The Jordanians and the Palestinians both liked him." Earlier the king's doctor had said that his "internal organs had failed" after an unsuccessful bone-marrow transplant. During his flight from the US he was kept alive by a life-support system.

King Hussein has ruled Jordan since 1953. He will be succeeded by his eldest son, Crown Prince Abdullah, who was appointed as his heir two weeks ago, when the king briefly returned to Jordan, declaring himself cured. He suffered an almost immediate relapse.

As rain lashed down on the Jordanian capital yesterday, Jordanian radio played solemn music, but said only that the king had come back to go into hospital. Jordanians are relying on foreign radio stations and satellite television for information on the king's heath.

His death will create uncertainty in one of the pivotal states in the Middle East, since so little is known about his successor. Crown Prince Abdullah has strong support among senior officers in the army and security services and will take over the throne without resistance, but the last- minute change in the succession may lead to longer-term divisions within the Jordanian royal family.

The king is genuinely popular among ordinary Jordanians, few of whom have known any other monarch. Some people were openly crying in the streets yesterday morning as they heard the news that the king was close to death.

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