King Hussein returns to jubilant welcome

AMMAN, Jordan — Hundreds of thousands of Jordanians greeted King Hussein in a national celebration Tuesday, when he returned home after six months of treatment for cancer that threatened to end his 45-year reign and raised concern about Jordan's future.

"Everyone is waiting for this moment, and it will definitely raise the whole mood of the people," Jordanian Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh said just before the monarch's return.

Many Jordanians want to gauge first-hand whether the king is fully recovered — as his doctors have said — from the non-Hodgkins lymphoma treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

The king piloted his jet from London and touched down in Amman with his wife, Queen Noor, in the early afternoon. He looked much healthier than he did at the Wye summit in October, where he appeared frail and hairless due to chemotherapy.

After an official welcoming ceremony by everyone from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and ambassadors to tribal leaders, he proceeded by motorcade through the rain-drenched city, which was decked out with thousands of banners from companies, individuals, and government agencies.

The festivities, in addition to being an expression of joy at the king's recovery, appear aimed at helping to reestablish Hussein's role as the active monarch of old, while mobilizing support for the palace in a country beset by 17 percent unemployment and a moribund economy.

And despite the joyous welcome, unofficial reports suggest that Hussein plans to strip his younger brother, Crown Prince Hassan of his 35-year title as king's successor in favor of one of Hussein's sons, Prince Abdallah or Prince Hamza.