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Sunday, 2 January, 2000, 01:01 GMT
Pierre Trudeau suffering pneumonia

Pierre Trudeau pictured in 1977 Peak of power: Trudeau rode wave of popularity in the 1970s


The former Canadian Prime Minister associated with championing the cause of national unity, Pierre Trudeau, has been taken to hospital suffering from pneumonia.

Mr Trudeau, 80, is being treated in a Montreal hospital after taking ill on New Year's Eve, his family confirmed.

In a statement, the family said that the flamboyant former leader had "responded well to treatment and his condition is stable and improving".

Chantal Beauregard, spokeswoman for the Royal Victoria Hospital in the city, said that Mr Trudeau was in good spirits and the prognosis was "excellent".

Mr Trudeau held office, with the exception of a nine month gap, for 16 years after sweeping to power on a wave of popularity, known as Trudeaumania, in 1968.

His 80th birthday in October last year was marked with television and newspaper tributes, though he chose to celebrate the occasion out of the public eye.

Mr Trudeau became known worldwide for his determination to unite Canada's English and French speakers around a strong central government.

He chose to take on the Quebec separatists, whose aspirations had been controversially boosted by France's former president Charles de Gaulle.

In 1980, he was personally credited with masterminding the campaign which defeated the separatists 60-40 in the referendum on secession, a battle which left the Bloc Quebecois movement weakened for a decade.

Since resigning office, Mr Trudeau has continued to practice law in Montreal.

In 1998, the Trudeau family - which has often attracted intense public scrutiny - suffered a tragic loss. The former premiere's 23-year-old son Michael, by his ex-wife Margaret, was killed in an avalanche while hiking in British Columbia.

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