VARIOUS: Politicians around the world react to the medical condition of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
- Title: VARIOUS: Politicians around the world react to the medical condition of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
- Date: 6th January 2006
- Summary: STRAW LEAVING
- Reuters ID: LVA74DZQTTXOHBAY5XMEHS26ZSV2
- Duration: 00:00:10
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: International Relations
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None
- Story Text: World leaders on Thursday (January 5) expressed hopes Ariel Sharon would recover from his massive stroke but made clear that the Israeli prime minister's dominance of Middle East politics was now over.
His deputy, Ehud Olmert, was named acting prime minister. But political analysts said the election, which Sharon had been widely expected to win as head of the new centrist Kadima party, would become an open race if he died or was incapacitated.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he was "shocked" by news of his condition and was hoping and praying "for a miracle".
"The decisions, which Ariel Sharon has led, to withdrawal from Gaza and the four settlements from the northern part of the West Bank, to seek this rapprochements with Palestinians have been decisions which are though controversial, have enjoyed widespread support within Israel," Straw said at a news conference with Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh while on a visit to Beirut.
"If he dies or not, what we care about is a peace process in the region, and a solution to all obstacles. We in Lebanon, what we care about is freeing our lands that are still under Israeli occupation," Salloukh said.
The Israeli prime minister has undergone surgery to stop widespread bleeding in his brain which could cause permanent damage.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi postponed a planned trip to Israel after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke, but is expected to visit Turkey next week as scheduled.
Koizumi had planned to meet with Sharon and Palestinian officials, including president Mahmoud Abbas, in hopes of playing a mediating role and supporting the regional peace process.
"It is now not possible for us to have our bilateral meeting. So I would like to respect the wishes of the Israeli government (and refrain from going)," Koizumi told reporters on Thursday (January 5).
Tokyo has long felt it had a special role as a mediator between Israel and Palestine since it lacks much of the political baggage of the United States, enabling it to have warmer ties with many Arab nations.
Analysts, though, said that the trip -- originally set to take place from Jan. 7 to Jan. 13 -- was mainly to enhance a patchy diplomatic record plagued with problems including chilled Asian ties.
Speaking on the behalf of the European Union, the 25 member States block's Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana told journalists he was hoping Ariel Sharon could recover to continue the political process leading to new elections in Israel. Solana offered acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert his "support and solidarity".
On behalf of the U.S. President George W. Bush, his spokesman Scott McClellan said that Shaton is in the thoughts and prayers of the American people.
"We pray for his recovery and we will continue to keep our focus there."
He added that "the desire for peace in the Middle East is wide and deep within Israel and within the Palestinian territories, and in terms of the situation right now, we continue to stay in touch with the government of Israel. "
Only a miracle would allow the stricken general to take up the political reins again before end-March Israeli elections.
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- Embargoed:21st January 2006 12:00