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World - Middle East

Hussein's cancer relapse prompts 10 more days of chemotherapy

January 28, 1999
Web posted at: 9:36 p.m. EST (0236 GMT)

In this story:

ROCHESTER, Minnesota (CNN) -- Jordan's King Hussein will undergo a 10-day course of chemotherapy for the recurrence of cancer of the lymphatic system, his ambassador to the United States said Thursday.

Ambassador Marwan Muasher said the 63-year-old king is in "very good spirits and is aware" as he returns to the Mayo Clinic to fight a new bout with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Muasher said Hussein's condition remained stable and he is "feeling much better." He said it is unclear at this point whether Hussein's treatment will include bone marrow or stem cell transplants. Hussein received a bone marrow transplant once in the past.

Muasher said the king's illness played no role in his decision this week to name his 37-year-old son as heir to the Hashemite kingdom's throne. Crown Prince Abdullah replaced Hussein's brother, Prince Hassan.

Abdullah now rules Jordan in his father's place while Hussein undergoes treatment, Muasher said, adding Hussein is "in constant touch" with his son.

"The crown prince is already acting as regent with full powers given to him by the king, and he is in full exercise of these powers and in consultation with the king on a daily basis."

A premature declaration of recovery

Hussein abruptly flew back Tuesday to the clinic in Minnesota after suffering a high temperature and a low blood cell count. Doctors said he was being treated for a cancer relapse.

He returned to Jordan just last week, telling his subjects he had recovered from his second fight with cancer in six years. Hussein had been out of the country for six months for treatment.

Just before leaving Jordan again, the king issued an open letter to his subjects that hinted he left his sickbed too quickly.

During his 47-year rule, Hussein has come to be seen as a pivotal figure in the U.S.-led search for Arab-Israeli peace.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Washington would stand by Jordan, a key Arab ally.

Albright met with Abdullah on Thursday. "I wanted to stop here in order to make very clear that the U.S. stands with Jordan," Albright said. "The relationship between the United States and Jordan has been a long one."

Mideast experts closely watching Abdullah

On Wednesday, the new crown prince received visitors in Amman's Raghadan Palace as Jordan's regent. Among the well-wishers was Hassan, whom Hussein criticized in a bitter public letter after removing him from the line of succession. The 51-year-old Hassan warmly hugged Abdullah to congratulate him.

Abdullah serves as commander of the Jordanian Army's special forces, and diplomats credit him with improving relations with Persian Gulf Arab states as Hussein's envoy. Muasher called him "an able politician."

In a country precariously stuck between Iraq to the east and Israel to the west, with a population more than half Palestinian, Abdullah's attempts at economic and political stability will face close scrutiny.

"There's a question mark," said Zeev Schiff, an Israeli political analyst. "We don't know Abdullah well. We don't know if he'll be able to follow his father's route and be able to handle the threats."

Both Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered their sympathies for the ailing king Thursday.

Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers, correspondents Ed Garsten and Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.

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