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Saudi King Fahd reported 'well'

Ailing monarch admitted to hospital

King Fahd had a stroke 10 years ago, and has been hospitalized several times in the past few months.
King Fahd
Saudi Arabia

(CNN) -- Saudi Arabia's King Fahd -- the leader of the world's largest oil-producing nation -- was doing "well" late Friday after being hospitalized earlier in the day, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

"King Fahd is well, thank God, and the medical tests he is undergoing are proceeding in a normal way," it reported, quoting a Saudi official.

Few details were given about his condition.

A Saudi diplomatic source told CNN the monarch is suffering from pneumonia-like symptoms and that his condition is "quite serious," though not believed to be life-threatening. The source said the king is expected to be hospitalized for two to three days.

Earlier Friday, a government statement said Fahd was admitted to King Faisal Specialist Hospital for medical tests and wished him "complete health."

Saudi sources initially told CNN a state of alert had been issued, but Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki said no security alert was issued "and it is not even expected."

But the special forces that protect the royal family were told Friday to be on alert, a routine move whenever the king is hospitalized, Saudi government sources told CNN on condition of anonymity.

Fahd, who is in his 80s, suffered a stroke in 1995 and has been hospitalized several times during the past six months.

Since then, the king's half-brother Crown Prince Abdullah has run day-to-day operations of Saudi Arabia and is in line to inherit the throne.

It was Abdullah who met with President Bush in Texas last month to discuss oil production and other issues.

U.S. relations with Fahd and Abdullah have been strong since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, despite the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

Held in high esteem

During Fahd's reign, the kingdom has seen an economic, agricultural and educational transformation, building on its oil wealth to become an international and regional power.

Home to Islam and its two greatest shrines, Saudi Arabia also has the largest oil reserves in the world.

"With the blessing and grace of Almighty God and with the assistance of the faithful Saudi people, we shall continue the welfare march of construction and development and maintain the gains which are reflected by comprehensive achievements in various fields," Fahd recently said.

Fahd is held in high esteem among Muslims because of his role as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques -- the birthplace of the prophet Mohammad in Mecca and Mohammad's burial site in Medina.

As king he supervised projects to facilitate the hajj for the more than 2 million pilgrims from around the world who visit each year. Under his rule, Mecca was expanded to 3.5 million square feet to accommodate 1 million worshippers; Medina has grown to nearly 1.8 million square feet to accommodate 500,000 people, according to his official biography.

The king, whose full name is Fadh bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, is one of 45 sons of the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman al-Saud. Fahd assumed the throne June 13, 1982, becoming the fifth king of Saudi Arabia.

In 2004 Forbes magazine estimated Fahd's net worth at $25 billion, reporting also that he was the wealthiest ruler in the world.

'Whatever pleases you, pleases me'

"I will be father to the young, brother to the elderly," Fahd once said. "I am but one of you; whatever troubles you, troubles me; whatever pleases you, pleases me."

Born in either 1920 or 1923, his precise birth date is unknown, he attended one of the kingdom's first educational institutions during his youth and in 1953 became Saudi's first minister of education.

During the next two decades he served increasingly important roles, including interior minister, deputy prime minister and crown prince.

In 1977 he met with U.S. President Jimmy Carter and U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance about the importance of U.S. involvement in trying to forge a lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

During his first visit to the United States as king in 1985, he met with President Ronald Reagan to press for a renewed American role in the Mideast peace process.

Fahd's close relations with the United States especially angered Islamic fundamentalists, like Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, during the 1991 Gulf War when he allowed U.S. forces to be based in the kingdom to get Saddam Hussein's military out of Kuwait.

CNN's John King, Caroline Faraj and Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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