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Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Nayef In U.S. For Medical Tests

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Saudi's new Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel-Aziz attends a ceremony of Saudi armed forces as they prepare for the influx of people to participate in the annual Hajj, in Arafat,15 kms outside of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) | AP

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Nayef, the heir to the aging king, is in the United States for medical tests, the kingdom's state media reported on Friday.

The Saudi Press Agency and state television said that the 78-year-old heir to the throne was in Cleveland for what was described as "scheduled" tests.

A spokeswoman for the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, confirmed that Nayef was visiting the hospital.

"He is here for routine tests. He will be here a few days," said Eileen Sheil.

No further details were provided on his condition.

Nayef was named crown prince in October following the death of Prince Sultan, who had been the next in line to rule the critical Western ally.

The medical tests highlight what has been an ongoing problem for the Saudi royal family: the aging leadership of those in line to rule the country.

Nayef, who has also been the Saudi interior minister for more than three decades, is considered highly conservative and close to the hard-line Islamic clerical establishment that holds vast power in the oil-rich kingdom. He has also been in charge of Saudi crackdowns on al-Qaida cells and anti-militant campaigns.

Saudi's ruling family oversees Islam's holiest sites. It draws its legitimacy from the backing of the kingdom's religious establishment, which follows a strict brand of Islam known as Wahhabism. While Saudi King Abdullah has pushed for some changes on women's rights, he is cautious not to push too hard against the clerics.

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