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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 December 2005, 11:57 GMT
Israeli PM Sharon leaves hospital
Ariel Sharon leaves hospital in Jerusalem
I don't think my ability to the job will be affected: Ariel Sharon
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has left hospital in Jerusalem, two days after suffering a minor stroke.

"I have to hurry back to work," Mr Sharon, 77, told reporters, adding that the stroke would have no impact on his ability to do his job.

Doctors say Mr Sharon, who left the ruling Likud party last month to form a new centrist party, Kadima, is expected to make a full recovery.

His rival Binyamin Netanyahu won the Likud party leadership on Monday.

They will face each other in a general election in March.

'No residual effects'

The stroke was caused by a small blood clot in Mr Sharon's brain which briefly blocked a blood vessel, doctors said.

The prime minister reportedly had difficulty speaking on Sunday night, but is not thought to have lost consciousness at any stage.

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

"I can say confidently that the stroke will leave no damage or residual effects," neurologist Dr Tamir Ben-Hur said.

Mr Sharon held his daily staff meeting in hospital on Monday, but his chief of staff has said it might be several days before the prime minister returns to full working capacity.

He left hospital, thanking doctors and telling journalists: "I don't believe it will affect my ability to function (in my job)".

But Gill Hoffman, political reporter for the Jerusalem Post, says many people find it troubling that they do not have access to the prime minister's medical records.

"This man that could be elected for the next four-and-a-half years. Can he make it?" he told the BBC.

Election looms

Mr Sharon has been prime minister since 2001 and polls suggest his new Kadima party is in the lead ahead of the March election.

Mr Sharon formed Kadima last month after walking out of the right-wing Likud party he helped found.

However, analysts say Kadima is built so completely around Mr Sharon, that questions about his health are likely to become a significant election issue.

"Kadima's existence depends on one man," said an article in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper. "It is reasonable to assume that the stroke... damaged his party in electoral terms."

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