Hundreds of grieving Jordanians have gathered outside the hospital in Amman, where King Hussein is on a life support system. The King has been described as "clinically dead", after suffering failure of his internal organs. One Jordanian official said the life support system may be switched off later today. Members of the Jordanian royal family are reported to have said their last farewells to the dying King Hussein, who arrived back in Jordan this morning.

The country has been shocked at the sudden deterioration in the health of the 63-year-old monarch, just weeks after he declared he had been cured of his cancer. He arrived back in his capital after a final and unsuccessful round of treatment in the United States. King Hussein had expressed a wish to die in his own country. The Jordanian Royal plane, on which he was travelling, made a brief refuelling stop at Shannon airport earlier this morning. He was rushed to an intensive care unit at a military hospital after his arrival in Amman this morning.

King Hussein's support has been vital in the American-led search for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours. His newly designated successor, Crown Prince Abdullah, is expected to maintain Jordan's commitment to peace with Israel. But the king's illness and the sudden deterioration in his condition has led to an increase in political uncertainty within the country. He succeeded to the throne in 1952 and has wielded absolute power ever since.

Officials around the world have already begun paying tribute to the King, the Middle East's longest-serving leader. King Hussein has has played a key role in efforts to bring peace to Jews and Arabs. Palestinian president Yasser Arafat earlier expressed a hope that the king would recover. He said he was needed by the "whole Arab world". A spokesman for the Israeli government said Israelis were praying for a miracle.