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Tells Ha\'aretz: \'apparently I should have taken a few days off\'

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Dramatically exposing the fragility of Israel's new political landscape Prime Minister Ariel Sharon  - the leader of the new centrist Kadima party - was rushed to hospital en route to Jerusalem Sunday night, briefly losing consciousness during the onset of a "mild" stroke.

A senior aide to Sharon said after visiting him Monday morning that the condition of the 77-year old premier had improved overnight, and that there were no signs of permanent damage.

Nevertheless the presence of dark colored armed cars parked at the entrance to Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem sent shockwaves across the political spectrum, gave added impetus to the Likud's first post-Sharon leadership battle on Monday and sent the pundits wondering just how long his new Kadima ('forward') party could last without him.

"In examinations this morning he looked good and felt good," said Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon as doctors at Hadassah conducted further tests to weigh the effects of the stroke and to determine how much longer the prime minister should remain under observation.

"There is no doubt that what he had last night was mild, very mild. Sharon's long-time personal physician Dr. Boleslav Goldman said early Monday, insisting that on admission to Hadassah, the prime minister was "talking freely, moving and joking." Sharon will remain in hospital for at least 24 hours, and possibly for several days, his physician added.

Close to midnight, Sharon repeated this message in a conversation with Haaretz. "I'm fine," he said. "Apparently I should have taken a few days off for vacation. But we're continuing to move forward" - a play on the name of Kadima - the breakaway faction formed after Sharon split with his governing Likud party last month.
According to news reports Sharon was first taken to hospital just before 8 pm after complaining of feeling unwell while traveling in his own vehicle. He was taken straight to the hospital's trauma room and then for a neurological scan.

Channel 1 television said Sharon had been speaking on the telephone from his car with one of his sons, Gilad, when he told him: "I don't feel well." "Dad, go to the hospital immediately," Gilad replied, according to the report. Sharon's motorcade then sped to Hadassah, where doctors diagnosed a minor stroke caused by a blockage of blood to the brain, hospital sources told Ha'aretz later. 

According to the law, Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, who is also deputy prime minister, would take over as interim premier until Sharon recovers. But Maimon said that there was no need for Olmert to step in.

Sharon, who will celebrate his 78th birthday in February, is already the oldest serving prime minister in Israeli history, but has remained surprising fit and energetic throughout his five years term in office.


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