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Blair to Undergo Heart Procedure - 2004-09-30

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will go to the hospital Friday for an operation to cure an irregular heart beat. Mr. Blair also has announced he intends to seek a full third consecutive term in office next year, but after that he will not run for prime minister again.

The medical procedure Mr. Blair will undergo is considered routine, and doctors hope it will cure a heart flutter that was first discovered a year ago.

The 51-year-old Mr. Blair will be under local anesthetic for the procedure, expected to last about 90 minutes. His deputy, John Prescott, will stand in for him during the operation.

In announcing his medical situation, Mr. Blair told British television he also plans to seek a full term as prime minister in elections expected in May of next year, but he will step down after that.

?The political process and the public in particular are mature enough to accept that it's a sensible thing to declare your intention to fight the third term, to declare that you are going to stand a full term and you're not suddenly going to suddenly give up a few months or a year or so into the parliament, and also then make it clear that you're not so daft as to think you should be prime minister forever and ever, because that's not going to happen with me or with anyone else.?

Mr. Blair's comments were intended to lay to rest speculation that he might try to lead his Labor Party to an unprecedented third consecutive general election victory, then step aside to let his finance minister, Gordon Brown, take over as prime minister.

Spokesmen for Mr. Blair say he plans to be back at work on Monday, and he will travel on Tuesday to Ethiopia for a meeting of his Commission on Africa.