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Sharon Shows Independent Movement and Breathing

Doctors treating Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon say he has begun breathing on his own and shows some independent movement. The news came Monday as Mr. Sharon's doctors began reviving him from his medically-induced coma.

Ariel Sharon began breathing on his own on Monday, nearly a week after he suffered a massive stroke and cerebral hemorrhage.

Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the director of Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital, says Mr. Sharon also displayed independent movement. The developments came after Mr. Sharon's doctors began reducing the amount of anesthetic he is receiving, in a procedure designed to revive him from his medically induced coma. The Hadassah Hospital director says Mr. Sharon is clearly displaying brain activity.

"The first was a spontaneous breathing of the prime minister, even though he is still connected to a ventilator," said Dr. Mor-Yosef. "During the day until now, his response to pain that we evoked showed that he started to move minimally. His right hand and right leg moved. These signs, together with slight elevation of his blood pressure as a reaction to pain, are signs of some brain activity."

Dr. Mor-Yosef says Mr. Sharon's medical diagnosis is that he remains in critical condition, with some signs of brain activity.

Mr. Sharon's neurosurgeon, Dr. Felix Umansky, says Mr. Sharon's reaction to pain on Monday was not a reflex. The Argentina-born doctor, one of the world's top neurosurgeons, says the recovery process for Mr. Sharon will be long and difficult.

"We are just at the beginning of a long way he needs to undergo. We need to be very cautious when talking about the prognosis, but we are going to do everything we can to help him to pull through this situation," he said.

Dr. Umansky's eventual assessment of Mr. Sharon's cognitive state will be sent to Israel's attorney general, who will decide whether or not to declare Mr. Sharon permanently incapacitated.

Mr. Sharon's deputy, Ehud Olmert, has been declared acting prime minister for 100 days, so no quick decision is expected from the attorney general about a declaration regarding Mr. Sharon's state.

If Israel's attorney general declares Ariel Sharon permanently incapacitated, then Israel's Cabinet would have to elect a new prime minister from among the five Cabinet members who belong to the Kadima Party, which Ariel Sharon founded last November to contest elections due at the end of March.