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Sharon doctor says ex-premier's condition is life-threatening

JERUSALEM -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has taken a turn for the worse in the past two days and his condition is now life-threatening, one of his doctors said.

“In the past two days, we have seen a gradual decline in the functioning of several critical organs,” Prof. Zeev Rotstein, director of Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer outside Tel Aviv, said in a statement broadcast on Israeli radio stations Thursday. “We characterize his condition as critical and there is definitely a threat to his life.”

Sharon, 85, has been hospitalized at Sheba since he suffered a stroke in January 2006 that left him in a coma. Doctors said Wednesday that his condition had deteriorated.

Raanan Gissin, a former Sharon adviser, said earlier Thursday that doctors treating the former Israeli leader have assessed “he won’t be able to survive the kidney problems that he has.”

“It’s a matter of time,” Gissin said. “To say it in a harsh way, it could be a few days, it could be a few hours.”

An army general, Sharon became defense minister in the 1980s and was forced to resign after a government panel assigned him indirect blame for the massacre of Palestinian refugees by Israeli-allied Lebanese Christian militiamen in 1982.

He was elected premier in 2001 after the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising against Israel and the breakdown of peace talks months earlier.

A champion of the movement to settle lands Israel captured in the 1967 war, Sharon subsequently ordered Israeli military forces and thousands of settlers to leave the Gaza Strip in 2005.