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Norway's hospitalized king gets a pacemaker in Malaysia after falling ill during vacation

HELSINKI (AP) — King Harald of Norway was implanted with a temporary pacemaker Saturday at a hospital in Malaysia’s resort island of Langkawi, where Europe’s oldest monarch was being treated for an infection during a vacation this week, the Norwegian royal house said.

“The pacemaker was implanted due to a low heart rate,” the Royal House of Norway said in a brief statement, adding that the procedure conducted at Hospital Sultanah Maliha was successful.

Following the operation, Harald, 87, would likely be transported back to Norway “within the next couple of days,” the statement said.

“His Majesty is doing well under the circumstances but still requires rest. The procedure will make the return back home safer,” Bjørn Bendz, the king’s personal physician, said as quoted by the royal palace in Oslo.

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The royal house said on Tuesday that Harald, Europe’s oldest reigning monarch, was hospitalized after he fell ill during a private vacation in Langkawi. Norwegian media outlets said Harald traveled to the Malaysian resort island to celebrate his 87th birthday.

Two days before his birthday last week, Norwegian news agency NTB reported that the king was undertaking a private trip abroad together with his wife Queen Sonja, without specifying the destination or dates.

A Scandinavian Airlines medical evacuation plane, which took off from Oslo on Thursday, arrived in Langkawi on Friday. Norwegian authorities haven't confirmed yet whether the Boeing 737-700 aircraft, which has previously been used as a flying ambulance, will pick up King Harald.

The Norwegian government arranges the transport, and the Norwegian Armed Forces are responsible for the practical arrangements for the king's return trip, according to the royal house.

The aging Norwegian monarch has suffered from frail health over the past few years, and has been admitted to a hospital for treatment on numerous occasions. Harald, who has been seen using crutches, had an operation to replace a heart valve in October 2020 after being hospitalized with breathing difficulties.

Harald has repeatedly said he has no plans to abdicate, unlike his second cousin Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who stepped down earlier this year. The heir to the Norwegian throne, Crown Prince Haakon, has - as a rule - stepped in and taken over his father’s duties while he's been hospitalized.

Harald’s duties as Norway’s head of state are ceremonial and he holds no political power. He ascended to the throne following the death of his father, King Olav, in 1991.

The country’s first native-born king since the 14th century, he married a commoner as a prince and won hearts in his egalitarian country by leading the mourning in 2011 for the victims of mass killer Anders Behring Breivik.

Jari Tanner, The Associated Press