AGENCIES

MADRID
KING Juan Carlos of Spain is undergoing surgery to remove a growth from a lung, the Royal Palace said yesterday.
The palace said the 72-year-old monarch was being operated on in a hospital in Barcelona.
A statement issued by Avelino Barros Caballero, head of the palace's medical team, said doctors carrying out a routine checkup on April 26 and 27 found what was described as “calcification” at the top of the king's right lung.

The growth was also described as a “nodule measuring 19 x 12 millimeters (0.75 x 0.47 inches)” that “does not infiltrate into the pleura.” After further tests - including magnetic resonance scans - they decided to operate yesterday to remove the nodule. Surgery was being directed by doctor Laureano Molins Lopez-Rodo, the statement said. Doctors will be carrying out tests on the growth after they have removed it. The royal palace declined to say if the growth was cancerous.

Juan Carlos used to be known as a heavy smoker but observers have not seen him smoking in recent years. The palace declined to say whether he had stopped.

The king carried out his duties as normal on Friday, including an early afternoon meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at the Zarzuela Palace.
The king and Biden met for 50 minutes and discussed bilateral and international matters, officials said. At a handshake ceremony with Biden the king looked weary.

The king is much loved and respected in Spain after he defended the country's parliamentary democracy from an attempted right-wing military coup in 1981.

On Feb. 23 of that year some 200 soldiers and paramilitary Civil Guard stormed the debating chamber of parliament, firing automatic weapons into the ceiling and shouting orders.

They took hostage about 350 lawmakers, causing the deepest crisis in government since Gen. Francisco Franco died in 1975 after nearly 40 years of dictatorship.

The king stood firm, told the soldiers to stand down and in a nationally televised speech defended democracy. As head of state, Juan Carlos holds a largely figurehead position and rarely speaks out on political issues.

Queen Sofia arrived at the Barcelona hospital just before noon yesterday.
His son, Felipe, Prince of Asturias, is currently in San Jose, Costa Rica, where he is due to attend the taking of office ceremony of president elect, Laura Chinchilla.