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Former Spanish prime minister Adolfo Suarez, key figure in transition to democracy, dies at 81

Adolfo Suarez, Spain's first democratically-elected prime minister after decades of right-wing rule under Gen. Francisco Franco, has died aged 81.

Family spokesman Fermin Urbiola said Suarez died Sunday afternoon in Madrid's Cemtro Clinic hospital. Suarez had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for some 10 years.

The exact cause of death wasn't immediately made known. He has been admitted to the hospital Monday with pneumonia. On Friday, his son Adolfo said his condition had deteriorated and that he was expected to die within days.

One of Spain's most respected politicians, Suarez, was chosen in 1976 by King Juan Carlos to lead the country toward a democratic parliamentary monarchy after Franco's death a year earlier.

He served as prime minister until 1981.