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Israeli PM Remains Stable Following Stroke


Physicians treating Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plan to perform another brain scan to help determine whether to stop administering sedatives, a step toward bringing Mr. Sharon out of his medically induced coma.

Mr. Sharon's doctors replaced a catheter used to remove excess fluid from his brain, and attached a new intravenous line in the prime minister's leg. Both procedures were done to reduce chances of infection, as Mr. Sharon began his second week in deep sedation.

One of Mr. Sharon's neurosurgeons, Dr. Jose Cohen, told an Israeli television station that he and his colleagues were surprised by Mr. Sharon's ability to move the left side of his body. The stroke he suffered caused damage in the right hemisphere of his brain, which controls the left side of his body.

"We expected to see a serious weakening on the left side of his body, but we were surprised to see him move his left side," he said. "That means the damage on the right side of the brain was not quite as bad as we thought at first."

Mr. Sharon's doctors say he remains in critical-but-stable condition, and his recovery period, if he survives, will be long and difficult.

Dr. Jose Cohen says, he does not expect Mr. Sharon to ever return to his old job, and people should just be grateful for his survival.

"I hear too many questions about the likelihood of him continuing as prime minister," he said. "What we have here is a man fighting for his life. Is it that important for him to be prime minister again? We need to think of him as a human being."

President Bush called Israel's acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, to express concern for Mr. Sharon. It was the first conversation between the two men since Mr. Sharon suffered his stroke last week.

A statement from Mr. Olmert's office says Mr. Bush also pledged to implement the joint vision shared by Mr. Bush and Mr. Sharon for promoting peace in the Middle East. Mr. Olmert is expected to visit Washington for talks with Mr. Bush prior to Israeli elections on March 28.

Meanwhile, the man expected to be Ehud Olmert's chief rival in those elections, Likud Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered the four Likud Party Cabinet members in Mr. Olmert's government to quit. The move had been expected, but was put on hold after Mr. Sharon's stroke.

Mr. Netanyahu badly trails Mr. Olmert in the polls.

The resignations are not expected to affect how Israel's government functions. Once the resignations take effect, Mr. Olmert can appoint his own supporters to the vacancies. There is speculation that former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who last year left the Labor Party to join Mr. Sharon's newly formed Kadima Party, will be appointed foreign minister.

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