http://apnews.myway.com/article/20050527/D8ABOPG81.html RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - King Fahd, the elderly Saudi ruler whose actions to strengthen the oil kingdom's ties with the United States provoked the wrath of Islamic militants, was hospitalized Friday, apparently suffering from pneumonia. Fahd's half brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, has been Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler since Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke in 1995. Abdullah is expected to become king should Fahd die. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia's strategic importance as the holder of the world's largest oil reserves and the fact that it is home to Islam's two holiest shrines means even a stable succession could impact world markets and have widespread political fallout. The government's official news agency said only that Fahd, who is believed to be 82, was admitted to King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh for unspecified medical tests. But reports of Fahd's deteriorating health had been blamed for sending the Saudi stock market tumbling 5 percent earlier in the week. Friday's news that he was taken to a hospital helped push crude oil futures to near $52 a barrel ahead of the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend, the start of the American summer driving season. An Arab official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the Saudi government had put the kingdom - the world's largest oil exporter - on a state of alert and canceled military leaves. Other officials confirmed the alert among security forces and said leaves were being discouraged and government meetings with foreign dignitaries would be canceled. The Interior Ministry denied that any emergency had been declared. "This is absolutely not true," ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki said. "There's no canceling of leaves and no state of emergency or anything." Asked about the king after a speech in San Francisco, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she did not know the extent of his health problems. "He has in fact had some health problems for quite a long time. We have an excellent relationship with Crown Prince Abdullah," Rice said. With the portly, goateed Fahd only a figurehead in the last decade, it has been Abdullah who has overseen the kingdom's crackdown on Islamic militants after followers of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden launched a wave of attacks. Abdullah tried to rebuild relations with the United States in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks; 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. At one Riyadh coffee shop Friday, patrons flipped from channel to channel on a television set, intently seeking information on Fahd's condition. "This is all we're talking about tonight," said one man who would give his name only as Khaled. "Everyone is talking about what is going on. ... We're waiting for more news." On the streets, there was no sign of an increased security presence. One official said doctors believe the monarch has pneumonia. The official requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of his position. A royal office official said the king had a fever and "water in his lung" but was expected to leave the hospital soon. He did not elaborate. "We ask God to keep and protect the Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines, grant him health and well-being," said the royal office statement announcing the hospitalization, carried by the Saudi Press Agency. Fahd, who rose to the throne in 1982, suffered short-term memory loss and an inability to concentrate for long stretches after his stroke in 1995. Visitors who saw him after the stroke reported the king was barely aware of what was going on around him and could not recognize those who shook his hand. Fahd is the son of the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, King Abdul-Aziz. During his rule, Fahd brought the kingdom closer to the United States. His most significant action was a step that enraged many Islamic extremists - allowing the basing of U.S. troops on Saudi soil after the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader, cited the U.S. troops' presence as a main provocation for launching the Sept. 11 attacks as well as a wave of violence inside the kingdom. The U.S. military withdrew all its combat forces from Saudi Arabia in 2003 after major combat operations in Iraq were declared over. But a small military contingent stayed behind in a training and advisory role to Saudi armed forces. The United States and Saudi Arabia have been talking in recent months about organizing joint training exercises for U.S. and Saudi ground combat forces on Saudi territory. During his rule, Fahd tried to balance overtures toward the West with concessions to hard-liners, hoping to boost his Islamic credentials. He had himself named the custodian of Islam's two holiest sites, in the western Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina. In 1981, when he was still a crown prince, Fahd proposed a plan calling for Israel to withdraw from all Arab territory occupied in 1967, including Arab East Jerusalem. According to that plan, Israeli settlements built on Arab lands after 1967 would be dismantled. The West Bank and Gaza Strip would come under U.N. control for a limited period, after which an independent Palestinian state would be set up with Jerusalem as its capital.