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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 December 2006, 23:48 GMT
New Pinochet surgery 'not needed'
Gen Pinochet seen on 25 November at celebrations for his 91st birthday
Gen Pinochet celebrated his 91st birthday a week ago
Doctors treating Chile's ex-military leader Augusto Pinochet have said they think they can avoid performing a second operation on him.

Gen Pinochet, 91, underwent surgery to widen a blood vessel after suffering a severe heart attack early on Sunday.

Doctors performed follow-up procedures, to see whether risky open-heart surgery was needed. Gen Pinochet's condition is said to be serious but stable.

Some 3,000 people "disappeared" or were killed during his 17 years in power.

Gen Pinochet is under indictment in two human rights cases and for tax evasion.

Last rites

The former ruler was taken to the Santiago Military Hospital following an "acute" heart attack and a build-up of fluid in his lungs, a statement from the hospital said.

Pinochet supporters
Some of Pinochet's supporters have gathered at the hospital
Doctors had carried out "procedures that rescued him virtually from death," Gen Pinochet's son, Marco Antonio Pinochet told reporters gathered outside the hospital.

"He's in a pretty serious state...We're in the hands of God and the doctors."

The former leader received the last rites from a Catholic priest, a family spokesman said.

Gen Pinochet underwent angioplasty, a procedure designed to widen a narrowed or totally obstructed blood vessel, to stabilise his condition, he said.

Later on Sunday, one of doctors treating the general, Juan Ignacio Vergara, said: "No bypass has been performed and we expect no open heart surgery will be necessary."

He added that such surgery involved high risks for someone of Gen Pinochet's age.

'Political responsibility'

General Pinochet overthrew the elected government of the left-wing President Allende in 1973 in a bloody coup.

Today, close to the end of my days, I want to make clear that I hold no rancour toward anybody, that I love my country above all else
Pinochet's birthday statement
He was placed under house arrest earlier this week over the abduction of two people in 1973.

The charges relate to the Caravan of Death - a military operation to remove opponents to Gen Pinochet's rule.

He currently faces two other indictments - one for human rights abuses and another for tax evasion.

As a former president he enjoys legal immunity, but the courts can strip him of this privilege on a case-by-case basis.

On 25 November, his 91st birthday, Gen Pinochet issued a statement in which he took "political responsibility" for acts that took place under his rule, saying that he had believed they were in Chile's best interests.

He also alluded to his failing health.

"Today, close to the end of my days, I want to make clear that I hold no rancour toward anybody, that I love my country above all else," he said.

Gen Pinochet has been in ill health in recent years. He suffers from diabetes and arthritis, and has also had a number of suspected strokes.

A look at Augusto Pinochet's life

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