Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz has left for what was described as a
"private visit" to the United States. Sultan, also the kingdom's defense
minister, left Riyad on June 18 for medical treatment in an unidentified
American hospital, Middle East Newsline reported.
The king has also been limited since his return from the United States
in early 2011, where he had undergone two spinal operations. The diplomats
said most decisions were being made by Deputy Prime Minister Prince Nayef
Bin Abdul Aziz, also the kingdom's interior minister.
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"Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, deputy premier and defense
and aviation minister and inspector-general left Riyad on June 18 on a
private visit after he undergoes medical check-ups in the United States of
America," the official Saudi Press Agency said.
The agency, quoting a palace statement, did not say when Sultan, who
turns 88 in August, would return. This marked the crown prince's first visit
to the United States in several years.
Over the last year, Sultan increased his profile amid a power struggle
to replace the ailing King Abdullah. In highly-staged appearances, the
defense minister was seen in newspapers and television meeting delegations
and foreign visitors.
Western diplomats said Sultan was no longer regarded as heir to the
throne. They said the crown prince was suffering from dementia as well as
stomach cancer that made him mentally and physically unable to make
decisions on Saudi defense or domestic policy.