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Ariel Sharon to Remain Sedated for at Least Two Days

Doctors treating Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for a massive stroke he suffered on Wednesday say he will remain sedated for at least two days. Israel's new acting prime minister assumed responsibility for guiding Israel to national elections on March 28.

Doctors treating Ariel Sharon say he will remain in a medically induced coma for at least another 48 hours before they attempt to revive him to test his cognitive abilities, following the massive stroke he suffered late Wednesday. Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the Director of Jerusalem's Haddasah Hospital says Mr. Sharon's brain was functioning but he will remain under sedation to keep his cranial pressure low.

"Mr. Sharon is under sedation, anesthesia and ventilation," said Shlomo Mor-Yosef. "This is the main treatment he is receiving, and the purpose of this treatment is to reduce the cranial pressure on the prime minister's brain. This treatment will last for the next 48 to 72 hours, depending on the prime minister's condition. Then, gradually we will try to awaken him to see his response and his brain activities."

Dr. Mor-Yosef says he believes that it will not be possible for Mr. Sharon to return to work under the current circumstances. He also defended the decision to drive Mr. Sharon to Jerusalem late Wednesday, rather than treat him at a hospital near his Negev Desert farm, saying the decision was made because doctors at the Hadassah Hospital were better able to treat Mr. Sharon.

The medical developments surrounding Mr. Sharon capped an eventful day in Jerusalem. Mr. Sharon's deputy, Ehud Olmert officially took over as Israel's acting prime minister. In one of his first official duties Mr. Olmert spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who expressed hope for Mr. Sharon's quick recovery. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Quereia told reporters that Palestinians are prepared to work with any future Israeli government.

"No doubt Israelis will miss Mr. Sharon as a leader and as a decision maker," said Ahmed Quereia. "For us the Palestinians, what concerns us first is that we hope he will recover, and secondly we are looking for an Israeli leader to be in favor of peace, to be ready to sit with the Palestinians to start a serious civil negotiation. This is what we need."

Israel's cabinet on Thursday agreed to go ahead with plans to hold national elections on March 28. There is intense speculation in Israel about how Mr. Sharon's absence will affect Israel's upcoming election. Polls prior to his stroke showed Ariel Sharon was well ahead of all rivals in his bid to win a historic third term.