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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 January 2006, 17:57 GMT
Sharon makes slight improvement
Ariel Sharon

The latest scan of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's brain shows a slight improvement, doctors say.

The hospital said the scan had shown a slight reduction in brain swelling, but his condition was still critical but stable following emergency surgery.

Mr Sharon, 77, is in a medically-induced coma after suffering a massive stroke on Wednesday night.

Doctors say they will decide on Sunday when to take him out of the coma to check for brain damage.

"First we have to stabilise the situation and fight for the life of the prime minister," Hadassah Hospital director Shlomo Mor-Yosef said.

"Then we will be able to evaluate the different neurological findings."

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Mr Sharon's other vital signs, including blood pressure and pulse were within normal limits, the director added.

"We as human beings are optimistic. But I cannot say that the prime minister has come out of danger," he said.

'Low expectations'

Mr Sharon has undergone three rounds of surgery to stem bleeding in his brain from the stroke.

A brain scan following surgery on Friday showed the operation successfully released pressure on Mr Sharon's brain.

The BBC's James Reynolds in Jerusalem says there appears to be little expectation in Israel that Mr Sharon will make a meaningful recovery.

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His deputy, Ehud Olmert, has taken over as caretaker prime minister and will chair the cabinet meeting on Sunday.

The general election is to go ahead as planned on 28 March. As head of the recently formed Kadima (Forward) party, Mr Sharon had been widely expected to win re-election.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has cancelled a week-long trip to Australia and Indonesia amid concerns about Mr Sharon's health.

Ms Rice is expected to be part of a high-level delegation, possibly including President George W Bush, which will head to Israel if Mr Sharon dies, reports BBC state department correspondent Jonathan Beale.

The recently-appointed US security delegate to the Middle East, Maj Gen Keith Dayton, has already returned to the region for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

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