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Saturday, February 6, 1999 Published at 02:16 GMT

World: Middle East

King Hussein's family at bedside

Some Jordanians braved the rain to wait outside the hospital

Jordan is preparing itself for the worst as King Hussein lies close to death in an Amman hospital.

Jordan's sorrow
The king's family have gathered at his bedside to say farewell to the 63-year-old monarch who has reigned for 46 years.

He is reported to be in a coma and on a life support machine after his organs failed following unsuccessful cancer treatment in the US.

But palace sources said King Hussein's family had decided not to switch off his life support machine, preferring to let him die naturally.

Jordanian television said in a news bulletin on Friday night that King Hussein was still under intensive care.

The TV announcers are wearing black and the station is broadcasting programmes about the king's life.

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen: "The crowd is waiting outside the king's hospital"
A crowd has gathered in the pouring rain outside the hospital. "We cannot stay in our homes," said one man. "He's a great man and he made great sacrifices for Jordan."

Jordanian officials say they are expecting at least 40 heads of state at the funeral which will be held a day after the king dies.

A Qatari satellite TV station says that US President Bill Clinton, accompanied by his wife Hillary and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, will pay a one-day visit to Amman on Sunday.

Last journey home

The king had returned home critically ill after the failure of his latest cancer treatment.

He was immediately taken by helicopter to an intensive care unit at the Hussein medical centre, west of Amman.

Doctors at his US clinic say the king suffered internal organ failure following an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant.

"The king is in agony. He is being kept alive by artificial means. There is no more hope," an official told the Agence France Presse news agency.

[ image:  ]
Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israelis were praying for a miracle to save him.

The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat also expressed hope for King Hussein's recovery, saying that his leadership was needed in the Middle East.

Sad echo of triumphant return

Jeremy Bowen: "Jordanians being prepared for King's death"
King Hussein is suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer which has a recovery rate of approximately 50%.

It was only two weeks ago that he made a triumphant return to Jordan, after six months of treatment in the US. He was greeted by hundreds of thousands of people lining the route to the palace. At the time, he declared himself "completely cured".

[ image:  ]
During his brief visit, he installed his son, Abdullah, as heir apparent. King Hussein's brother Hassan, who had spent three decades preparing to succeed him, was dismissed from the role of Crown Prince.

The king spent just six days in Jordan, before being rushed back to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, after a relapse.

He was given another session of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. His condition was stable until Wednesday, when it declined severely.

The king, a heavy smoker, has had seven courses of chemotherapy and two bone marrow infusions since being admitted to the clinic in July 1998.

The BBC Correspondent in Amman, Richard Downes, says people in Jordan realise that the much-loved king may have little time left. "Jordanians say Jordan is King Hussein and King Hussein is Jordan."

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