RIYADH — Saudi King Abdullah was hospitalised for a new back surgery in Riyadh, following two similar operations last year in the United States, the SPA news agency early Monday.

The 87-year-old was operated in November for a debilitating herniated disc complicated by a haematoma that put pressure on his spine and underwent another surgery to repair several vertebrae.

The latest operation is aimed at repairing a slackening ligament near the third vertebra, the news agency said.

The monarch's advanced age combined with health problems have raised concerns about the future of Saudi Arabia, which has been ruled by the Al-Saud family since 1932.

Abdullah's half-brother, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who has held the post of defence minister ever since 1962, is 83 and has been slowed by what is believed to be cancer.

Prince Nayef, 77, third in line to the Saudi throne, was appointed second deputy prime minister in March 2009.

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