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Olmert to keep working despite cancer

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Olmert (The Spokesman-Review)

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Monday that he has prostate cancer but will continue to govern and expects to be cured by surgery.

The 62-year-old leader, looking fit and speaking calmly, told a news conference that a biopsy had detected a malignant tumor in its early stage. He said he had learned of the diagnosis over the weekend and has chosen to undergo surgical removal of the prostate gland “in the coming months.”

“My doctors have informed me that I have a full chance of recovery and there is nothing about the tumor that is life-threatening or liable to impair my performance or my ability to carry out the duties bestowed upon me,” he said.

The disclosure came at a sensitive time in Middle East diplomacy, weeks ahead of a U.S.-brokered summit aimed at restarting talks to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Fighting in the Gaza Strip on Monday left three Palestinians and an Israeli soldier dead.

Olmert’s condition is not expected to complicate the peace effort, his doctors said, because the tumor is confined to the prostate and growing slowly enough for treatment to wait months without risk.

Miri Eisen, a spokeswoman for the prime minister, said the operation would take place after the summit, which is expected to be held in late November or early December in Annapolis, Md.

Leaders in Israel are not required to issue regular reports on their health, and they rarely speak publicly on the subject. But Olmert told reporters “the citizens of Israel have a right to know” about his condition, and he brought two of his doctors to the news conference to answer questions.

Olmert took office in January 2006 after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered the second of two strokes and fell into a coma. Sharon remains hospitalized in a long-term care facility. Olmert was elected to the office two months later as head of a broad-based coalition anchored by his centrist Kadima party.

Olmert and his government are being investigated by a state-appointed panel for their conduct of the cross-border war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon in summer 2006. In addition, police and judicial investigations are looking into four allegations that Olmert used public office before he became prime minister to improperly change rules, influence government decisions and benefit political or business partners.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men after lung cancer, mainly affecting men 50 and older. It is typically treated by surgery, radiation or hormone-deprivation therapy.