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Surgeons stop Sharon's cranial bleeding: Hospital

Surgeons stopped renewed bleeding in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's brain in an emergency operation on Friday but he remained in critical condition two days after a massive stroke, a doctor said.

world Updated: Jan 07, 2006 05:11 IST

Surgeons stopped renewed bleeding in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's brain in an emergency operation on Friday but he remained in critical condition two days after a massive stroke, a doctor said.

Sharon was rushed into surgery when fresh bleeding developed on Friday morning. After an operation lasting nearly five hours, Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director of Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital, said the most acute symptoms had been alleviated.

"During the surgery the cranial pressure was released and some of the blood clots that remained from the previous surgery were drained," he told reporters. "At the end of the operation there is no active bleeding."

He said Sharon's brain scan showed "significant improvement" compared with previous scans, but added that the 77-year-old leader, who is in a medically-induced coma and on a respirator, remained in "critical but stable" condition.

After an earlier operation on Thursday to staunch bleeding in Sharon's brain, doctors had said they intended to awaken him from sedation as early as Saturday to assess his mental and physical abilities. Mor-Yosef did not say whether that remained the plan.

Doctors decided on a second operation after a brain scan on Friday showed heightened pressure and new bleeding.

The death or incapacitation of Sharon, who raised peace hopes by pulling Israeli settlers and troops out of Gaza in September to end 38 years of military rule, would create a huge vacuum in Israeli politics and the West Asia peace process.

Sharon is reviled in the Arab world but increasingly seen by the West as having opened up new prospects for peace. He suffered his stroke at his Negev Desert ranch at a crucial juncture in Israeli politics, as he was fighting for re-election on a promise to end conflict with the Palestinians.

Underlining his pivotal role, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cancelled a trip to Indonesia and Australia because of concerns over his condition and over any outburst of West Asia violence.

Rice wanted to be able to liaise in Washington with President George W. Bush's other top foreign policy aides without the problems of time differences, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Medical experts said that even if Sharon pulled through, his faculties could be seriously impaired, making a return to work impossible. His deputy Ehud Olmert was named acting prime minister on Wednesday after Sharon fell ill.

"One way or the other"

"This is the deadliest and most disabling form of stroke that we face," Stephan Mayer, associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, said in a telephone interview.

But Sharon's doctors, speaking before he went into Friday's surgery, cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

"For some reason, everyone is mentioning the less pleasant things ... any assessment is irresponsible— things can go one way or the other," Shmuel Shapira, Hadassah's deputy director, told Israel's Channel Two television.

Political analysts said Israel's March 28 election, which Sharon had been widely expected to win as head of the new centrist Kadima party, would become an open race without him.

Much of Sharon's popularity among Israelis stems from a belief he could take bold steps towards reconciliation with the Palestinians which others would not get away with, given his background as the archetypal hawk.

But two opinion polls published in newspapers on Friday suggested that under Olmert, Kadima would still win around 40 of parliament's 120 seats -- well ahead of Likud, the rightist party Sharon abandoned this year, and centre-left Labour.

Sharon had been campaigning on a platform of readiness to give up some occupied land in the West Bank, but has vowed to hold on to major West Bank settlement blocs, a prospect Palestinians say would deny them a viable state.

Sharon's two sons maintained a vigil at his bedside.

In Washington, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Bush continued to pray for Sharon's recovery. Rice spoke to Olmert briefly by telephone and an Israeli political source said Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak also called to wish him well.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas telephoned Olmert on Thursday to express hopes Sharon would recover, but some other Palestinians were less forgiving of the Israeli leader's harsh measures to fight a five-year-old uprising.

One preacher at Friday prayers in Gaza denounced him as "the man who wiped the smiles from the faces of children".

Even before Sharon fell ill, hopes for peacemaking were dwindling over a possible delay to January 25 Palestinian elections and growing unrest in Gaza and the West Bank.

Britain advised its citizens on Friday to leave Gaza unless they had round-the-clock professional bodyguards, because of worsening violence in the territory. Three Britons were kidnapped there on December 28 and held for two-and-a-half days.

First Published: Jan 07, 2006 03:26 IST