Saudi air force cadets march during their graduation ceremony at King Faisal military college in front of a poster dedicated to King Abdullah Riyadh 4 January 2011. (Reuters)
King Abdullah's health is improving and he should soon return to Saudi Arabia from the United States where he underwent back surgery, his daughter said in comments published Wednesday.
"The king's health is constantly improving. He has been attending physiotherapy sessions and will return to the country when he has completed his treatment," Princess Adelah told Saudi daily al-Watan, speaking on the margins of a women's conference at Riyadh's King Saud University.
The king, who is about 86 years old, flew to New York on November 22 and was operated on two days later for a debilitating herniated disc complicated by a haematoma that put pressure on his spine.
That surgery was declared a success, as was a second operation to repair several vertebrae.
Saudi television showed Abdullah walking with difficulty and smiling at hospital staff on December 22 as he left the facility for a period of convalescence and physiotherapy at his New York residence.
The monarch's advanced age combined with his back hernia raised concerns about the future of the world's biggest oil exporter, which has been ruled by the Al-Saud family since 1932.
The crown prince, Abdullah's half brother Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who has been defence minister since 1962, is also in his mid-80s and has been slowed by what is believed to be cancer.
Little seen for the past two years, Sultan returned from Morocco on November 21 to assume control of the royal government in Abdullah's absence.
The kingdom is a close US ally, and Washington has pressed Riyadh to crack down on Islamic militants and help counter the threat it says is posed by Iran. US Vice President Joe Biden paid a visit to the hospital and met with Abdullah's family on December 15, but apparently did not meet the king himself.
President Barack Obama called the monarch on December 26 to hail his recovery "progress," the White House said.Saudi