King Abdullah has appeared on state television in an apparent bid to quell rumours about his health after he went into hospital in Riyadh on 16 November for a back operation.

The footage showed the monarch, in his late eighties, seated and receiving well-wishers. It is the first time he has been seen in public since going into hospital, although the government has sent out several statements about his health in order to stop speculation that has led to a 6 per cent decline in the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) since November 7, when the market reached its highest level this month.

Succession is a sensitive issue in the kingdom, which is ruled by the now aged sons of the country’s founder King Abdulaziz al-Saud.