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Ailing Israeli Leader Undergoes New Surgery

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon underwent five hours of emergency surgery on Friday to relieve cranial pressure and stop bleeding on his brain. Mr. Sharon's doctors say the surgery was successful, but Mr. Sharon remains in critical condition.

Ariel Sharon's battle to stay alive entered a new phase when, early Friday, his doctors rushed him back into the operating room for the third time in less than 48 hours.

A CAT scan had indicated renewed bleeding on his brain and other complications. After an hours-long operation, Hadassah Hospital's director, Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, emerged to brief hundreds of reporters.

"During the surgery, the intercranial pressure was released, the clotting from the previous operation was cleaned from the brain, and there is no active bleeding at the moment," he explained.

Dr. Mor-Josef says a new CAT scan taken after Mr. Sharon's latest surgery was encouraging.

"After the operation, we performed a CAT scan at our imaging center here at Hadassah, and when (we) compared the results of the CAT scan of today with the previous CAT scan, we can see a significant improvement," he added.

Dr. Mor-Josef says, even though the results from the CAT scan are better than those taken previously, Mr. Sharon remains in critical condition.

Mr. Sharon's two sons, Omri and Gilad, remain by his bedside. Israel's prime minister has been widowed twice.

Government offices closed Friday in observance of the Jewish Sabbath, which began at dusk. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other senior government officials are monitoring Mr. Sharon's condition closely.

One senior Israeli politician, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, did visit Hadassah Hospital on Friday. Mr. Peres, a longtime Labor Party leader, who recently joined Mr. Sharon's newly formed Kadima Party, expressed support for Mr. Olmert and continuity in Israeli policy.

"Legally, according to our constitution, he is to be the prime minister in charge of the situation," said Mr. Peres. "I think every citizen has to support him. So, do I. I wish him success, and I hope that the continuation of the peace process and the attempt to bring an end to terrorism will continue full speed."

Even as Ariel Sharon was battling for his life, speculation about who will succeed him was heating up. Polls released on Friday show Mr. Sharon's newly formed Kadima Party could still win in Israeli elections on March 28.

Still unresolved is who will lead the party following Mr. Sharon's departure, but polls show many Israelis would support Ehud Olmert as a new party leader. Joshua Teitelbaum of the Moshe Dayan Center and a professor at Tel Aviv University says the polling data will likely change by Election Day.

"As far as polls go, I think you have to take them with a grain of salt," he said. "I think what you have now is a bit of a sympathy vote. It may be that they lose support in a couple of days or weeks. This Kadima Party was really Sharon's party in every way, so, without Sharon, I think you will see it lose support after the sympathy vote dissipates."

Polls taken just before Mr. Sharon's massive stroke on Wednesday showed him a heavy favorite to win re-election to a historic third term as prime minister of Israel.