KHARTOUM  - Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir returned home from Saudi Arabia on Wednesday after undergoing vocal cord surgery in the kingdom, an AFP reporter said. Thousands of people lined streets around the airport in central Khartoum to greet him after the presidential plane landed at about 4:15 pm (1315 GMT). Bashir, 68, “underwent a successful surgical operation in the vocal cords,” the official SUNA news agency reported. The president arrived on the eve of a four-yearly conference by an Islamist social movement at the heart of his ruling National Congress Party.  Reformers in the movement say corruption and other problems have left Sudan’s Islamist government Islamic in name only.

, and question how much longer Bashir should remain in power. The recent surgery had reinforced questions over the future of Bashir, who left the airport standing and smiling in the back of an open-roofed car. He raised a traditional wooden stick to greet the crowds shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is greater). Some held flags or welcome signs. Bashir gave no speech at the airport. He had been recovering in the Saudi kingdom after leaving hospital there on November 7, following his second minor surgery in less than four months, official media reported. Known for his sharp-tongued public speeches, Bashir had been relatively quiet in recent weeks, making his fewer orations more restrained. But last Thursday a tired but healthy looking president appeared on television and spoke for about 15 minutes in a return to his typical fiery rhetoric. Government-owned Blue Nile TV said the broadcast was recorded that day at Sudan’s embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.