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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 December 2005, 21:51 GMT
Israel's Sharon suffers a stroke
Ariel Sharon
The hospital says the prime minister's life is not in danger
Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been taken to hospital after suffering a "very minor" stroke.

He had said he was feeling unwell while being driven home from work on Sunday and was taken directly to Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital.

Hospital officials say the prime minister is conscious and that his condition is not life-threatening.

The portly 77-year-old is not known to have had serious health problems in recent years.

His personal physician, Boleslav Goldman, said he expected the prime minister would remain in hospital for three or four days.

Dr Goldman - who is not treating the prime minister - denied earlier reports that Mr Sharon had temporarily lost consciousness.

"As far as I know there was no problem with consciousness," he told the BBC.

Mr Sharon briefly had difficulty speaking, but the condition passed without treatment, the doctor said.

Elections looming

The veteran Israeli politician, who has been prime minister since 2001, recently announced he was leaving the right-wing Likud party he helped found.

POLITICAL CAREER
1975-77: Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's special security adviser
1977-81: Minister of Agriculture
1981-83: Minister of Defence
1984-90: Minister of Trade and Industry
1990-92: Minister of Construction and Housing
1996-98: Minister of National Infrastructure
1998-99: Foreign Minister
2001-today: Prime Minister

He has drawn supporters from both right and left for his new party, Kadima (Forward).

Polls suggest Kadima will come out on top in new elections scheduled for March.

But analysts say Israel has rarely had a political party built so completely around one man, and if there are questions about Mr Sharon's health the political map could shift completely.

The health scare came from out of the blue, the BBC's Matthew Price says.

Mr Sharon's deputy and close political ally Ehud Olmert will take over if Mr Sharon is unable to carry out his duties.

Aides say that will not be necessary.

Other Israeli politicians have been wishing him well, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly also contacted Mr Sharon's office to wish him a speedy recovery.

His sons Omri and Gilad have come to visit him in hospital.

The Israeli daily Haaretz reports that he was on the phone to Gilad when he complained of feeling unwell.

"Dad, go to hospital immediately," Gilad is reported to have told him.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
What doctors have said about Ariel Sharon's condition



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