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Sharon hospitalized after mild stroke

Condition of Israeli prime minister improving, doctor says

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Ariel Sharon
Israel

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was taken to a hospital Sunday night after suffering a mild stroke, a hospital official said.

"Our tests have shown that the prime minister had a mild CVA," said Dr. Yuval Weiss, deputy director of Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital, using medical jargon for "cerebral vascular accident," or stroke.

During the tests, Sharon's condition improved, and he was conscious throughout, Weiss told reporters. (Watch a report on Sharon and ramifications for Israeli politics -- 2:38)

No invasive procedures were needed, and Sharon "is now speaking with his family" and members of his government, Weiss said. (Read about mini-strokes)

Sharon's personal physician, Dr. Boleg Goldman, said the Israeli leader will remain in the hospital for "a few days."

"He's in a very good medical condition," Goldman said. "Basically, at this stage, we are not worried."

Goldman said Sharon had undergone examination using magnetic resonance imaging and was being treated mainly with blood thinners.

Speech problems

The physician said Sharon initially had difficulty speaking but suffered no lasting sensory or motor impairment.

"At the beginning, he had some problems with speech," Goldman said. "It started like that, but it was for a few moments and that's all."

A source in the prime minister's office said the 77-year-old leader had completed a full day of work in his Jerusalem office that included meeting with former Labor Party leader Shimon Peres and was en route to his ranch in the Negev Desert when he told aides he was not well.

The source added that Sharon called one of his sons at 7:50 p.m. (12:50 a.m. ET) and told him he was ill.

The convoy turned around and sped to Jerusalem's main hospital, arriving at 8:05 p.m., a spokesman at the medical center said.

Israeli media reported that Sharon was wheeled into the hospital on a stretcher, conscious but confused.

Sharon's two sons arrived at the hospital shortly thereafter, as did a number of his top aides.

Spokesman Ra'anan Gissin told reporters outside the hospital that Sharon was "fully conscious and lucid" and was conducting the affairs of the country from his bed.

"There is no need to replace the prime minister, no need to activate any procedure," said Gissin, who added that Sharon's first question to doctors was "When can I get out of the hospital?"

Ehud Olmert, the country's vice prime minister and finance minister and the man who would replace Sharon in the event of his death, was in Haifa in northern Israel, where he was watching a soccer game. He did not alter his schedule.

Leaders offer support

Calls of support for Sharon poured in from world leaders, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Gissin said.

"All wished him Godspeed and a quick recovery," the spokesman said.

In Gaza, celebratory gunfire broke out, and Palestinians passed around food treats in the streets. Some shouted "Death to Sharon!"

Sharon earned the enmity of some Palestinians after a government commission found him indirectly responsible for the September 1982 massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Lebanese Christians.

This year, he orchestrated Israel's historic pullout from Gaza in hopes of jump-starting the peace process with Palestinians.

Sharon, who is overweight, has never released his medical records. He has said he has no major health problems.

Nicknamed "The Bulldozer" for his stamina and long working hours, he had not been in ill health. Goldman said Sharon's most recent physical examination was about three months ago, and the results were "excellent."

The popular veteran military and political figure is widowed and lives alone. He has been prime minister since 2001.

Political shakeup

He recently broke with the Likud party and is running for re-election as head of the moderate, newly formed Kadima Party in a contest scheduled for March 28.

Some members of the Likud party -- which Sharon helped found in the 1970s -- protested his withdrawal of Israeli settlers and troops from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

Sharon revolutionized the Israeli political scene with his formation of the new party, which has endorsed the creation of a peaceful Palestinian state, giving up some land to ensure Israel's Jewish majority and maintaining all of Jerusalem under Israeli control. (Full story)

The new party's principles overlap in several cases with those of the left-leaning Labor and right-leaning Likud.

But Kadima positions itself as a centrist alternative and has attracted support from prominent members of both camps, including Peres. (Full story)

Polls taken last month suggested that if the elections took place at that time, Kadima would win the most seats in the 120-member Knesset, Israel's parliament.

CNN's John Vause contributed to this report.

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