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Saudi royal court says King Abdullah, 90, hospitalized for pneumonia and using breathing tube

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is being treated for pneumonia and his condition has stabilized with the help of a breathing tube, according to a Royal Court statement issued Friday.

The statement, which was released by Saudi state media, said the monarch, 90, had been transferred Thursday to a military hospital after experiencing shortness of breath and back pain. The Saudi Royal Court said medical tests showed the king had a respiratory infection.

After spending a little more than week at his royal encampment in Rawdat Khuraim, a green oasis about 62 miles (100 kilometers) north of Riyadh, the king returned to the capital on Wednesday and was admitted initially to a National Guard hospital for medical tests.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Friday, June 27, 2014 file photo, Saudi King Abdullah speaks before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at his private residence in the Red Sea city of in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. The official Saudi Press Agency says King Abdullah has been admitted to a hospital for medical tests. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool, File)
FILE - In this Friday, June 27, 2014 file photo, Saudi King Abdullah speaks before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at his private residence in the Red Sea city of in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. The official Saudi Press Agency says King Abdullah has been admitted to a hospital for medical tests. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool, File)

The health of the monarch is of extreme importance in the kingdom, where Abdullah holds absolute powers to enact laws and appoint ministers. His condition is also watched internationally largely due to the country's role as one of the world's largest oil exporters, as well as regionally where the kingdom has used its influence to counter the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group and Shiite Iran.

Abdullah officially assumed the throne in 2005, but has largely been seen as the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia since the mid-1990s. He reportedly underwent back surgeries in 2010 in New York City, and in October 2011 and November 2012 in Saudi Arabia.

The aging monarch met President Barack Obama in March and appeared before the press wearing an oxygen tube. Official photographs of the king have also shown him in a wheelchair.

His successor is 79-year-old half-brother Crown Prince Salman. Abdullah has outlived two other half-brothers who held the crown prince post.

In an effort to assuage concerns about continuity and stability in the kingdom, 69 year-old Prince Muqrin was appointed deputy crown prince and second-in-line to the throne last year. He is the youngest surviving son of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdulaziz Al Saud.

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