| GEO World|
| Saudi crown prince returns home after year's absence|
| Updated at: 0755 PST, Saturday, December 12, 2009|
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's crown prince and veteran defence minister, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, returned to the country on Friday after more than a year's absence that gave rise to widespread concern over his health.
The government said Sultan, a half-brother to King Abdullah who has served as defence chief for almost half a century, returned after medical treatments in New York and a lengthy convalescence at his vacation palace in Agadir, Morocco.
"He has completed the treatment period and stopped taking medication about two months ago," his son and deputy defence minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan announced ahead of his return.
Prince Sultan, officially listed as 78, was greeted at Riyadh airport by King Abdullah and dozens of members of the ruling Al-Saud royal family, and other government officials.
The streets of the Saudi capital were decked out with the kingdom's flags to mark his return and scores of officials issued public statements lauding his leadership.
King Abdullah ordered the release of an unspecified number of people detained or imprisoned for minor crimes in honour of the sultan's return, the official news agency said.
First in line for the throne after Abdullah, and for 47 years the powerful defence and aviation minister, Sultan left for the United States for treatment on November 23, 2008.