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Israel's Sharon Leaves Hospital after Minor Stroke

  • Robert Berger

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has left the hospital after suffering a mild stroke. His health has suddenly become an issue in an election campaign that is heating up.

Mr. Sharon was given a clean bill of health, and he emerged from the hospital smiling.

"I have to hurry back to work," he said, adding that his illness would not effect his performance. He spoke clearly and appeared fit.

The prime minister was rushed to the hospital Sunday after suffering a mild stroke. Doctors treated him with blood thinners and they say there is no damage.

But at age 77, the brief illness has raised questions about Mr. Sharon's health as he heads into a grueling campaign in national elections set for March 28. The prime minister's advisor Ra'anan Gissin says there is nothing to worry about.

"He is in perfect health condition, has no significant maladies and no significant malfunctions whatever," he said. "He needs to be treated with medication for what caused that blood clot, but he is capable of returning fully to his function as prime minister and discharge all his duties there."

In the election, Mr. Sharon will face off with his old rival, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who won the race for leadership of the right-wing Likud party. That is the party Mr. Sharon left last month, after a dispute with hardliners opposed to his pullout from the Gaza Strip. The prime minister formed a new centrist party that is prepared for further Israeli withdrawals from parts of the West Bank.

Mr. Netanyahu says that is a reward for terror, and he will work to stop the process of unilateral concessions.

"I think that is the kind of leadership Likud needs and that is the kind of strong leadership I will provide," he said.

The election pits the charismatic and relatively young Benjamin Netanyahu, who is 56, against Ariel Sharon, the elder statesman. But so far, age and health issues have not effected Mr. Sharon's popularity. Two new polls show that the prime minister would defeat Mr. Netanyahu by a landslide.

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