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Cancer Relapse Brings Jordan's King Hussain Back to U.S. Clinic

By Tracy Wilkinson
Los Angeles Times
AMMAN, Jordan

Feverish and weak, King Hussein Tuesday rushed back to the U.S. cancer clinic where he had spent much of the last six months undergoing chemotherapy, leaving Jordanians to worry about their monarch's mortality.

The king's sudden departure came just hours after he had formally anointed his eldest son, Prince Abdallah, as heir to the Hashemite throne. His absence put the 36-year-old army commander in charge of the monarchy on his very first day as crown prince.

Hussein left exactly one week after a jubilant homecoming, during which he paraded through the streets of Amman, in a cold rainstorm, and assured his people that he was completely recovered from the lymphoma that has ravaged his body.

His private physician, Lt. Gen. Samir Farraj, said the king was suffering from stubborn fevers and "low blood counts" and was returning to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for medical tests to determine whether the malignant disease had recurred.

Fevers are often a sign that lymphoma is relapsing, said Dr. Christos Emmanoulides, director of clinical lymphoma research at the University of California, Los Angeles' Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Abdallah, whose elevation to heir marked the acrimonious removal of the king's brother Hassan, was sworn in as regent, or temporary royal replacement, during a hasty airport ceremony Tuesday. Hussein was seen supporting himself on a cane.

Jordanians, already in shock over the demotion of the long-serving Prince Hassan, were stunned by the king's sudden departure.

"We are very worried," said Mahmoud Ghassan, a young office worker in downtown Amman, who, like many Jordanians, had already meshed his concern over the king's fate with his confidence that Hussein would leave Jordan in good hands.

"The king is like a father," Ghassan said. "We all knew Hassan and liked him. He was very intelligent. But Abdallah is strong and he has the army."

In a week of political and royal turmoil, Jordanians awoke Tuesday to the first full explanation of why Hussein had yanked brother Hassan out of the line of royal succession. Hassan had served as the designated heir for more than three decades.

Displaying a bluntness and direct anger rarely shown in public, Hussein chastised Hassan for refusing to go along with his long-term succession plans. Hussein made it clear that he wanted the line to the throne to revert to his own sons, but he said Hassan had resisted.