British PM successfully undergoes heart surgery

&to=' target=_blank>British Prime Minister Tony Blair underwent heart treatment Friday after a surprise pledge to serve a full third term if he wins an election expected next year.

Designed to dampen speculation over his future, Blair's announcement had the opposite effect, sparking frenzied talk of how long he can go on and whether he was blocking his No. 2, finance minister Gordon Brown, from taking over.

Britain's Sky TV reported at midday the operation for recurrent heart palpitations had been successfully completed and that Blair was "doing well." Neither Blair's Downing Street office nor London's Hammersmith Hospital would confirm that.

Before going in, &to=' target=_blank>Blair, 51, called the procedure "routine" and vowed to back at work in days.

"I feel fine," he said smiling en route to hospital.

Blair first had heart palpitations late last year and suffered a "mild recurrence" in August, his office said, informs Reuters.

According to Bloomberg, Blair arrived at Hammersmith hospital about 7:30 a.m. London time. He was treated at the hospital for an abnormal heartbeat in October 2003. Sky News, citing ``unofficial sources,'' said the procedure was completed successfully about 11 a.m. and Blair was resting comfortably.

A spokesman for Blair declined to confirm the report, saying, "We're not going to be providing a running commentary."

Now in his seventh year as prime minister and 10th as leader of the Labour Party, Blair took office in 1997 and won reelection in 2001. He must call the next general election by June 2006. Most party officials expect a vote in mid-2005.

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