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King Hussein Returns to Jordan

February 5, 1999

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ A gravely ill King Hussein returned home Friday with his wife and family members after an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant at a hospital in the United States.

Hussein was taken off the plane hooked to an IV and was still breathing, said a royal palace official, who saw the king. He spoke on condition of anonymity. Journalists were not allowed to see the 63-year-old Hussein, who arrived on a private jet.

Another source, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the king was conscious. The source declined to provide details.

Family members, including Crown Prince Abdullah, the king’s 37-year-old son and heir, met the monarch at Queen Alia International Airport on the outskirts of Amman.

A motorcade of more than 70 cars escorted by the king’s elite security detachment drove slowly from the airport. Two ambulances, one of them carrying the king, drove at its head.

An official announcement had said the king would be flown by helicopter to a military hospital called the King Hussein Medical City for further treatment. It was not immediately clear why plans were changed. The hospital was closed to the public.

The king’s trip home came only 11 days after he abruptly left for the United States to treat a relapse of lymphatic cancer.

The condition of Hussein ``has become critical due to the failure of the function of internal organs,″ the king’s private physician, Lt. Gen. Samir Farraj, said Thursday.

Farraj’s statement, issued at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, gave no further details on the king’s health. But an official in Amman said Hussein’s body had apparently rejected a bone marrow transplant performed on Tuesday.

A source at the royal palace, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the king was ``alive and kicking″ when he left the Mayo Clinic on Thursday afternoon.

``He was aware of everything around him and he was conscious,″ the source told The Associated Press on Friday.

Just before leaving for America, the king named his oldest son as his successor, removing his younger brother from the post, in an apparent move to ensure Jordan’s future stability.

Hussein is the Middle East’s longest ruling leader; he has been on the throne 46 years. He is known as a force for moderation in the volatile Middle East and, after Jordan’s 1994 peace with Israel, he has pushed for a broader regional peace.

Many Jordanians have known no other leader. When Hussein suddenly flew back to the Mayo Clinic last week, Jordan’s stock market shuddered and people began buying dollars in apparent fear that the Jordanian currency might suffer. Thursday’s announcement on the king’s condition came after business hours.

The news of Hussein’s deteriorating health followed rumors that he had died in the United States, prompting a quick denial from the Jordanian government. But some in Jordan already feared the worst.

``Jordan will never be the same without King Hussein. I’m sure that he’s dead and the government is lying to us,″ said Ibrahim Qarrash, a 27-year-old civil engineer.

Throughout the country, Jordanians listened to the radio, watched television and scoured newspapers for clues to the king’s condition.

``I and my family spent the night watching the news. This is a sad moment for Jordan. It feels like losing a father,″ said Sanaa Barakat, a 25-year-old bank clerk.

In Amman, security chiefs, speakers of both houses of Parliament, the prime minister and the national security council met Thursday night to discuss plans for the king’s arrival.

Hussein was accompanied on the flight by family members, including his American-born wife, Queen Noor.

His arrival in secrecy stood in stark contrast to his homecoming Jan. 19, when the king rode through the city, cheered by tens of thousands of well-wishers, some of them firing guns in the air.

Days later, he deposed his brother Prince Hassan, whom he had groomed for the throne for 34 years. He named his eldest son, Abdullah, as heir, then abruptly left for the United States.

Abdullah is an army major general, commanding an elite unit that protects the royal family. His political views remain largely unknown, but his aides say he shares Hussein’s pro-Western outlook.

Labib Kamhawi, a political science professor at the University of Jordan, predicted the ``succession will go on smoothly with no serious mishaps″ should the king die.

``This comes along with a feeling of apprehension and fear over the future,″ he added, noting that Jordanians had hoped ``the king will be around for a while to educate the young prince.″

``But that is not likely to happen,″ he said.

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