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Israel's Sharon 'Permanently Incapacitated'


Israel's Cabinet has declared Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "permanently incapacitated," officially ending his five-year leadership of the Jewish state.

The 78-year-old Mr. Sharon suffered a severe stroke on January fourth and has been in a coma since.

The Cabinet decision Tuesday, which had been expected, also confirms Ehud Olmert as the stricken leader's replacement.

Mr. Olmert, who served as Mr. Sharon's deputy, became the acting prime minister in January.

He led the new centrist Kadima Party created by Prime Minister Sharon to victory in national elections two weeks ago.

Mr. Olmert is trying to form a coalition government.

Israeli law says 100 days must pass before an ailing prime minister can officially be declared "permanently incapacitated" and replaced.

In Mr. Sharon's case, that would fall on April 14th. The Cabinet moved up the decision three days because the Jewish Passover holiday begins Wednesday.

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