Saudis on alert as King is taken ill

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The Independent Online

There was confusion in Saudi Arabia following reports that a state of alert had been declared after King Fahd was taken to hospital for medical tests.

An unnamed Arab official said last night all military leave had been cancelled, a claim denied by the country's interior ministry spokesman. King Fahd, believed to be 82, has been king for 20 years, but has ruled in name only for the past decade after suffering a stroke in 1995.

"We ask God to keep and care for the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and grant him health and wellbeing," said a statement issued by the official SPA news agency. No specific details about the King's medical condition were revealed, but an unidentified source said he was believed to have pneumonia and his condition was "serious".

The official added that the reported state of alert was only a precaution.

But Mansour al-Turki, an interior ministry spokesman, denied an emergency had been declared or that security forces' leave had been cancelled.