Sharon back in operating room

Stricken Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is undergoing another operation after a scan revealed fresh bleeding in his brain. Hospital director Shlomo Mor-Yosef said the scan showed an enlarged ventricle and surgeons were trying to drain excess blood to relieve the pressure. Mr Sharon, 77, underwent a seven-hour operation on Wednesday night after suffering a massive stroke.

His deputy, Ehud Olmert, has taken over as caretaker prime minister.At 1210 (1010 GMT), Professor Mor-Yosef told reporters Mr Sharon had returned to the operating theatre. "There was an increase in cranial pressure and there were changes in the blood pressure," he said.

"It was decided to bring the prime minister to the operating room in order to deal with these two issues - to drain the bleeding and to decrease the intracranial pressure." An increase in intracranial pressure can be a severe medical problem.

It can lead to compression of important brain structures and the restriction of blood through the vessels that supply the brain. The BBC's Jon Leyne in Jerusalem says this new operation is unexpected. Earlier, the doctors were saying they expected no change in Mr Sharon's condition before the weekend, and that they planned to keep him sedated in an "induced coma" until at least Sunday.

Correspondents say aides to Mr Sharon are working on the assumption that he will not be capable of resuming work. Israel's general election due on 28 March will go ahead as planned. Mr Sharon had recently formed a new political party, Kadima (Forward), after defecting from the right-wing Likud party, reports BBC news. I.L.

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