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Spokesman Says Nigerian President Alive, Conscious


Mr. Yar'Adua was flown to a hospital in Saudi Arabia November 23, suffering from what officials described as a heart condition

A spokesman for Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua is denying rumors that the president is dead or in a coma after weeks of medical treatment abroad.

Spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi told reporters Monday that Mr. Yar'Adua "is alive and actually getting better." He said the president "is very much conscious, can talk, and has been talking" to Nigerian officials by phone.

The president has not made a public appearance or comment since late November, when he checked into a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The spokesman's remarks come a day before a federal court and Nigeria's parliament are due to discuss the president's absence.

The court will hold a hearing on three lawsuits seeking to force a transfer of power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.

Meanwhile, protesters demanding an end to the confusion are planning to rally Tuesday in the capital, Abuja.

State governors are to discuss the president's absence at an emergency meeting in Abuja late Monday.

Mr. Yar'Adua was flown to a hospital in Saudi Arabia November 23, suffering from what officials described as a heart condition. The president is also known to have a chronic kidney ailment and had traveled abroad several other times for medical treatment.

Mr. Yar'Adua's aides say they have spoken to him, but opposition parties have rejected those claims, and say they want visual evidence the president is alive and alert.

Critics say the president's prolonged absence violates the constitution and has left the country dangerously adrift.

Nigeria's constitution states the president should inform both houses of parliament if he is unable to govern, and that the vice president should take over, until the president states publicly he can reassume his duties.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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