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Sharon on verge of death: Source

"We expect him to die today," a hospital source said after Israeli Prime Minister was taken for an emergency operation.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2006 19:38 IST

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, incapacitated by a stroke on January 4, was undergoing emergency surgery for digestive complications on Saturday and a hospital source said he was likely to die by the end of the day.

"We expect him to die today," said the source, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media on behalf of Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital.

Earlier, hospital spokesman Ron Krumer said a CT scan had revealed "serious damage to the prime minister's digestive system" and he was being taken for emergency surgery.

Yael Bosem-Levy, a hospital spokeswoman, said Sharon's condition had deteriorated to its most critical point since his admission to the facility.

She said at 11:30 am that surgery could take between three and six hours. After suffering his massive stroke, Sharon, 77, was put into a medically-induced coma. Doctors later tried without success to rouse him.

Long reviled in the Arab world but increasingly regarded as a peacemaker by the West, Sharon suffered his stroke at a crucial juncture in Israeli politics, as he was fighting for re-election on a promise to end conflict with the Palestinians.

His deputy, Ehud Olmert, was named interim prime minister and experts said they did not expect Sharon to make a recovery and return to office.

Opinion polls predict the centrist Kadima party, which Sharon founded after a rebellion in his right-wing Likud over Israel's Gaza pullout, will easily win the March 28 general election with Olmert at its helm.

Sharon, a hefty ex-general, has for decades been a key figure in shaping the West Asia, voicing in recent years support for a Palestinian state but demanding the disarming of Palestinian militant groups before peace talks could resume.

Sharon suffered his stroke a day before he was to check into Hadassah Hospital for a procedure to correct a tiny defect in his heart that was said to have contributed to a mild stroke he suffered two weeks earlier.

Doctors had treated Sharon with blood thinners before the planned heart operation, leading to questions within the medical community whether that strategy was wise.

Sharon's second stroke was caused by massive bleeding in the brain.

First Published: Feb 11, 2006 14:08 IST