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Italy's Bonino ends hunger strike

Doctors had become alarmed at Bonino's state of health  

MILAN, Italy -- Italian presidential candidate and former EU commissioner Emma Bonino has ended her five-day hunger strike on health grounds.

Bonino, who had started the hunger strike in protest at the lack of media coverage her campaign was receiving, called it off on Thursday after doctors said she was in danger of permanently damaging her health.

Bonino, who heads up the small Radical Party, had refused food and drink since Friday and was suffering from an irregular heartbeat and dehydration. She had lost about an eighth of her body weight.

Her spokesman Pietro Petrucci said: "Bonino took the decision to end the strike herself this morning following the alarming advice of her doctors."

The 53-year-old is undergoing rehydration treatment but said in a statement that she was prepared to resume the strike if she felt the coverage drops again.

Bonino, who used to lead the EU Humanitarian Affairs Commission, was taken into a Milan hospital late on Tuesday with an irregular heartbeat and was under constant supervision from doctors.

Medical sources said on Wednesday that if she lost another litre of water, which could have taken as little as 12 hours, her body could go into shock, causing irreversible damage.

Doctors, worried about her heart, had threatened to administer "obligatory treatment," Italian news agencies said.

She had made it clear that it had never been her intention to commit suicide.

The party said its campaign issues of euthanasia and freedom for scientific research were not receiving sufficient coverage in the run up to the May 13 election.

She said: "The international press has expressed concern for a possible election victory of (opposition leader) Silvio Berlusconi.

"But Berlusconi is only one of Italy's problems. In 2000, Italy was condemned 360 times for breaching human rights laws. Democracy must be monitored."

Her party had attracted just 2.2 percent of votes at regional elections in April last year.

She had received support from several leading politicians including President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

And had been joined in her protest by a fellow Radical parliamentary candidate Luca Coscioni, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and has stopped taking some of his medicines.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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