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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Recovered Saudi King Resumes Command

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- King Fahd, declaring himself healthy again after a three-month illness, said he's back in charge of the world's leading oil exporting country, the national news agency said Thursday.

Fahd, an overweight diabetic in his early 70s, has been recuperating since November from an undisclosed ailment.

"Having spent a period of rest and convalescence, God has bestowed on me a cure and good health,'' the king said in a letter to his half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, to whom he had handed the reins of power Jan. 1.

The king's letter, dated Wednesday, said the decree handing over state duties to Abdullah had "expired,'' the Saudi Press Agency reported early Thursday.

Saudi Arabia is the key Western ally in the Gulf, and Fahd's illness sent jitters through oil markets and raised speculation about the country's political future.

The government never disclosed the nature of Fahd's illness, although U.S. officials in Washington said he had suffered a stroke. Diplomatic sources in the kingdom later disputed that account, saying the monarch's main symptom was a sharp fall in blood pressure.

During the past 10 days, the king headed a Cabinet meeting and met with visiting Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, presaging his return to full duties.

Fahd's comeback surprised some observers, who had seen his handover to Abdullah as a sign of a clear transition to a new monarch -- with the ailing Fahd remaining a figurehead.

The king is one of the surviving elderly sons of Saudi Arabia's founder, Abdel-Aziz Ibn Saud -- who fathered more than 40 sons and an uncounted number of daughters.

Despite his frail health, Fahd, an absolute monarch, has guided the wealthy country with a firm hand.

The bearded, rotund king, who acceded to the throne in 1982, has used Saudi Arabia's oil wealth to modernize his conservative desert country and to ward off threats from his radical rivals in the region, Iraq and Iran.