Doctors Reattach Piece of Sharon's Skull

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon underwent a successful operation Wednesday to reattach a piece of his skull, a day after the procedure was delayed because of a respiratory infection, hospital officials said.

Sharon, who has been comatose since suffering a stroke on Jan. 4, was in stable condition after the procedure, Hadassah Hospital said.

"The surgery that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was supposed to have yesterday took place today and ended successfully a short while ago," the hospital said in a statement. It said Sharon, 78, was taken back to his room in the intensive care unit.

Doctors removed the piece of skull to operate on his brain after the stroke. Wednesday's surgery was the eighth operation on the prime minister since he fell ill.

The operation was postponed Tuesday after doctors found an infection in his upper respiratory tract.

Hospital spokesman Ron Krumer said Wednesday's surgery lasted several hours and that Sharon remained in "critical but stable" condition.

Israel's Army Radio reported Tuesday that the reattachment of the skull was the last step before Sharon is moved to a long-term care facility. Krumer refused to confirm the report, but experts in long-term care have examined Sharon in recent weeks.

Sharon suffered the stroke weeks after leaving the hawkish Likud Party to form the new centrist Kadima movement. He had been expected to coast to a third straight term as prime minister, and his removal from the political scene shocked Israelis.

Led by Sharon's heir apparent, Ehud Olmert, Kadima won last week's Israeli election, although by a smaller margin than was expected when Sharon led the party. Analysts have said the party's popularity was a result of Sharon's legacy.

Olmert is expected to serve as prime minister in the country's next coalition government.