CAIRO — Saudi Arabia's 86-year-old king flew Monday to the US for medical treatment and left control of the world's top oil producer and key American ally in the hands of an 85-year-old half brother who has suffered his own serious health problems.
Before King Abdullah headed for the United States, Saudi officials had been making a strong push to reassure the public and its international allies that there is nothing to worry about.
In a news conference shown on state TV, Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabeeah said the king suffered a slipped disc. He said a blood clot was pressing on nerves in his back, causing him pain and so he was heading abroad for treatment.
"But I assure everyone that the king is in stable condition and enjoys good health and God willing will return in good health to lead this great nation," al-Rabeeah said.