Ex-PM Sharon's condition unchanged: Hospital

TEL AVIV (AFP) - The condition of Israeli ex-premier Ariel Sharon, who has been comatose for eight years, was unchanged on Saturday, his hospital said, a day after revealing he was in a "slow, gradual" decline.

"There was no significant change in Ariel Sharon's condition during the course of the (Jewish) sabbath. His conditions remains critical and his life is in danger," Tel Hashomer hospital, near Tel Aviv, said in its first official bulletin since Friday morning.

It said that barring "dramatic change" an update would be issued at 11:00 am (0900 GMT) on Sunday.

Mr Sharon is reportedly nearing death, with the 85-year-old's health worsening Wednesday as he suffered serious kidney problems after surgery.

"Tests show a slow, gradual deterioration in the functioning of his vital organs... His state has not changed. He's still in critical condition, and his life is in danger," Tel Hashomer hospital director Zeev Rotstein was quoted by public radio as saying Friday.

"I don't think the situation will improve with time, and we know what usually happens in cases like this," he added, suggesting Mr Sharon might die soon.

Mr Rotstein said there were traces of infection in Mr Sharon's blood, and that it had not been possible for him to undergo renal dialysis since his other organs were in such a fragile state.

News website Ynet quoted medical sources on Wednesday as saying Mr Sharon was taken into intensive care a month ago. His health then stabilised but suffered a "significant deterioration" over the past few days.

The long-time leader of the rightwing nationalist camp in Israeli politics suffered a massive stroke on Jan 4, 2006, slipping into a coma from which he has never recovered.