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Sharon admitted to hospital after suspected new stroke

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was rushed to hospital after reportedly suffering a second suspected stroke in less than a month.

The 77-year-old Sharon could be seen arriving in an ambulance at the Hadassah hospital on the outskirts of Jerusalem where he had been due to undergo a procedure on Thursday to repair a small hole in the heart, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.

A brief statement from his office said that Sharon had been taken to hospital after feeling unwell.

«Prime Minister Ariel Sharon this evening (Wednesday) went to Hadassah-Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem after feeling ill,» said the statement.

«He is fully conscious and is with his personal physician.»

A report on Israeli public radio said that Sharon had suffered a stroke but gave no further details.

A spokesman for the hospital told CNN that Sharon had been admitted to the trauma unit and said that a more detailed bulletin would be issued shortly.

Sharon was at his ranch in the southern Negev desert on Wednesday when he suddenly «felt ill», a close aide said on condition of anonymity.

Doctors had been expected to perform a cardiac catheterization Thursday in order to fix a birth defect in Sharon’s heart and prevent any further clotting which caused the premier to suffer a minor stroke on December 18.

Sharon, who is seeking re-election for a third time in a general election on March 28, has already announced his intention to serve a full term by which time would be 82 and by far the oldest prime minister in the history of the Jewish state.

He suffered the original stroke while driving from his official residence in Jerusalem to his ranch. On his release from hospital, doctors asked Sharon to remain in Jerusalem for the time being in order that he could receive on the spot treatment.

After taking it easy for a couple of days, Sharon soon returned to work and preparing for the general election at the head of new party called Kadima that he launched in November.

It was not immediately clear if medics would go ahead with the catheterisation procedure in the wake of his latest health scare.

Arrangements had already been made for his official deputy, Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, to take charge while he was under the effects of an anaesthetic.

Sharon, who will be 78 next month, has cut down on his foreign travels in recent years but still maintains a punishing workload.

He has been under huge stress in recent weeks, not least with the prospect of his son Omri facing prison after pleading guilty to charges of providing false testimony and falsifying documents following an investigation into allegations of illegal financing of one of his father’s leadership campaigns.

News also emerged on Tuesday night that Israeli police are to examine computer data which they believe will show Sharon’s family received an alleged three million dollar bribe from Austrian financier Martin Schlaff.