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Zambian President Has Had a History of Hypertension, Says Information Minister

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa remains in intensive care at a hospital in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El Sheikh where he suffered a stroke Sunday while attending pre-African Union summit meetings. Zambian Vice President Rupiah Banda said in a statement earlier that President Mwanawasa was being attended to by doctors and that his condition is stable.

Zambian Information Minister Mike Mulongoti told VOA President Mwanawasa, who is 59, has had a history of hypertension.

"The country has been informed that the president had a stroke. He's in the hospital in Sham el-Sheikh in Egypt, that he is out of danger. He is quite stable. It is a known fact that has been hypertensive. I think it could be part of the reason why this could have delivered," he said.

Mulongoti said President Mwanawasa has been working long hours to bring development to Zambia.

"Our president is a very hard working man. It's not the question of him going to Egypt. Even back home he has a very heavy schedule and this could have contributed. We sincerely believe that his commitment to the development of the country was on top of his agenda. So he spent all his time working very hard. We were in fact worried that he was not giving time for him to take some rest," Mulongoti said.

He said President Mwanawasa had just completed by-elections campaign swing in the eastern part of the country before traveling to Egypt for the AU summit.

"You know when you are committed to your development agenda, it becomes difficult for you to appreciate that you could be hurting yourself. We had just come from campaigning in a by-election in the eastern part of Zambia. And he was relaxed for a few days, and then from there he came back to Lusaka and he came off to Egypt. So first of all, that pressure was too much," Mulongoti said.

Sometimes strokes can lead to paralysis and speech impairment. Mulongoti said he does not think President Mwanawasa had been speaking since the stroke.

"I don't think so because he is in the intensive care. So I don't think it would be possible for people to expect him to be speaking," he said.

Mulongoti said Zambians are praying for their president to get well soon.

"They are concerned that their president is not well, and they expect that he will recover quickly and be able to join them and continue with his responsibilities to ensuring that Zambia develop, and that the worth of the people improve," Mulongoti said.

He said Vice President Rupiah Banda has meanwhile taken charge of the leadership of the country in line with the constitution.