Embattled Spanish king vows to bounce back

Spain's King Juan Carlos vowed Monday he would soon bounce back after the latest in a series of surgical operations, despite deepening scandals that have harmed his popularity.

"I'll soon be back causing trouble," he joked as he stood without crutches in his first official appearance since surgery in March for a slipped disc -- his seventh operation in three years.

Juan Carlos, 75, was jovial in front of the cameras as he received the poet Jose Manuel Caballero Bonald, latest winner of the top Cervantes Prize for Spanish-language literature, at the Zarzuela royal palace.

The appearance was closely watched by the media following the troubles afflicting the king's family, which include a corruption probe implicating his daughter Cristina and her husband.

His comment suggested he was resisting pressure over the scandals that have raised the question of him abdicating in favour of his son, Felipe, 45.

The king won wide respect for helping guide Spain through a political transition after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, but his popularity has declined over the past year.

An opinion poll published on April 7 showed a slim majority of Spaniards disapproved of the king.

The damage caused to Juan Carlos's family from the probe into alleged embezzlement by the king's son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin deepened this month when a judge named Princess Cristina as a suspect.

Juan Carlos's popularity has fallen since that scandal and another affair last year in which he went on a luxury hunting trip to Botswana while Spaniards struggled in a recession.

The king broke his hip during the trip and had to be flown home for the first of two hip replacements he underwent in 2012.

"You're on better form than me. I'd like to be like you," the king, dressed in a grey suit and red tie, joked to his 87-year-old guest Caballero on Monday.