Israel PM diagnosed with prostate cancer

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced on Monday he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer requiring surgery but vowed to stay in office, confident of a full recovery.

“Following the results of a regular check-up, I was diagnosed with initial signs of prostate cancer,” the 62-year-old prime minister told a packed news conference in Jerusalem, looking slightly pale but otherwise healthy.

Olmert, who has always prided himself on his good health and is known as a sports fanatic, said the surgery was scheduled for the coming months, as he and his medical team stressed that his condition was curable.

“I will be able to fully carry out my duties before the treatment and several hours after it,” he said. “My doctors told me there is a full chance for a complete recovery.

“This is a microscopic growth ... removable through short surgical treatment.
According to the medical assessment, there will be no need for chemotherapy or radiation,” Olmert said.

The shock announcement comes as Israel and the Palestinians prepare for a Middle East meeting in the United States, expected to take place next month, that the international community hopes will revive full-blown peace talks.

Olmert’s doctors stressed that the diagnosis would not affect him travelling abroad to the planned meeting in Annapolis, Maryland.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Information Minister Riyad al-Malki said president Mahmoud Abbas would continue to work with “any elected prime minister” towards laying the groundwork for the conference.

“The announcement about the prime minister’s health will not have a large impact on the agenda of our negotiations. We are going to continue our efforts towards reaching a joint agreement,” Malki told a press conference in Ramallah.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat wished Olmert a swift recovery.

The biopsy was carried out on October 19 and surgery could not take place for at least six weeks afterwards. The procedure will require three days in hospital, followed by a period of convalescence at home.

“This is a malignant tumour detected at a very early stage. It’s treatable and curable,” said Shlomo Segev, another of Olmert’s personal doctors.

Olmert’s spokesperson, Jacob Galanti, told reporters that Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, currently on a three-day official visit to China, had been informed of the prime minister’s condition.

Her office said that she will not be cutting short her visit. Livni is the official number two in Olmert’s Cabinet and would ordinarily take over temporarily in the event of his incapacitation.

Olmert first took office in January 2006 after his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, suffered a debilitating stroke that ended his public career, before going on to win a general election victory at the helm of the centre-right Kadima party.

During his 21 months in office he has come under immense pressure and suffered abysmal approval ratings stemming from last year’s war in Lebanon and a string of corruption and sex scandals implicating him and his government.

He has kept up a punishing schedule of meetings and foreign tours. Last week he was in Britain and France after a flying visit to Russia as part of a campaign to press for tougher sanctions on Iran.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer normally grows slowly, and often goes undetected.

“Studies showed that seven or eight out of 10 men had prostate cancer by age 80. But neither they nor their doctors even knew they had it,” it said.

The prime minister, considered one of Israel’s most accomplished politicians and a lawyer by profession, was born in 1945 in the central village of Shoni.—AFP

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