Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd is now said to be in a stable condition after being admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia.
The King, who is in his early 80s, has been in declining health for years.
He was incapacitated by a stroke in 1995 and his official responsibilities have been taken on by his half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah.
There was widespread relief when Saudi television announced King Fahd was out of immediate danger.
But it has raised again the question of succession should he die.
It is believed Abdullah, who is regarded as a cautious reformists, would ascend the throne.
As the leader of the world’s biggest oil exporter King Fahd has been an important ally of the west.
But the monarchy’s strong friendship with Washington and European powers has caused a backlash within the country. There has been an upsurge in attacks by militants linked to al Qaeda in recent years.