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Saudi king holds audience after absence

A picture released on March 3, 2013 shows King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud arriving at Rawdat al-Khuraim to visit his farmSPA/AFP/File

Saudi Arabia's ageing King Abdullah, whose reduced public appearances have sparked health scares, held an audience in the Red Sea resort of Jeddah Sunday, the official SPA news agency reported.

The 90-year-old monarch met princes and religious scholars at the Al-Salam royal palace six days after the kingdom celebrated its national day, an event he did not attend.

The king's absence from the public gaze on Saudi national day prompted rumours on social networking website Twitter about his health.

SPA published photographs showing the king with Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, grand mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Shaikh and other religious leaders, princes and officials.

The king's half-brother Crown Prince Salman, 76, was named heir on the death of Prince Nayef in June.

Abdullah's age and frequent hospitalisation have raised concerns about the future leadership of the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom, a key player in the Middle East and major exporter of oil.