Kuwait's crown prince returns from London amid expectations of leadership change

Kuwait's ailing crown prince, Sheik Saad Al Abdullah Al Sabah, returned from a long trip abroad Wednesday amid expectations of leadership changes in this oil-rich Gulf ally of Washington. Sheik Saad, who suffered from colon bleeding in 1997, had been in London since August on a private visit and for medical tests.

The 79-year-old ruler did not elaborate but spoke the same day a senior ruling family member was quoted in a newspaper as saying Kuwait needed a committee "to support the leadership."

Sheik Salem Al Ali Al Sabah, who heads the National Guards, complained to Al-Qabas daily of "chaos" and corruption in an apparent criticism of the prime minister, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who runs Kuwait's day-to-day affairs.

The ill-health of Kuwait's two top leaders has made succession to power a public issue here. The Al Sabah's keep leadership moves in-house, but it is widely expected that Sheik Saad, a distant cousin of the emir and prime minister, might step down.

Sheik Jaber, who has ruled since late 1977, suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2001. He has since spent long periods in the United States and Switzerland for treatment and rest. On Monday, he was, for the first time, absent from the opening of a parliament session. A.M.

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