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Ex President Peres hospitalised for heart problems

14 January 2016, 14:17

Tel Aviv - Former Israeli president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres was hospitalised Thursday for heart problems and the 92-year-old was in stable condition after a medical procedure, his spokesman said.

The elder statesman, a towering figure in Israeli politics for decades, was hospitalised near Tel Aviv "after experiencing chest pains," the spokesman said in a statement.

"He underwent a cardiac catheterisation during which a narrowed artery was diagnosed which was then widened during the procedure. Former president Peres is feeling well and is fully conscious. His condition is stable."

His doctor Raphy Walden said Peres is expected to stay in hospital for a "few days" and then return to normal activities.

"He feels very well," Walden told a press conference on Israeli TV.

Michael Eldar, head of the cardiology institute at the Sheba Medical Centre in Tel Hashomer, said Peres experienced a "mild cardiac event".

Peres, a co-architect of the Oslo peace accords in 1993, was named joint Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1994 with Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated the following year, and then-Palestinian president Yasser Arafat.

The last of Israel's founding fathers, Peres has held nearly every major office in the country, including prime minister twice and president from 2007-2014.

Born in Poland in 1923, he emigrated to historic Palestine aged 11, joining the Zionist struggle in the 1940s and meeting David Ben-Gurion, who became the country's first prime minister.

At 29, he became director general of the nascent defence ministry and is considered a driving force behind Israel's undeclared nuclear programme.

The one-time anti-Palestinian hawk later became a dove, pushing for better relations with Israel's neighbours and the Palestinians.

He was prime minister between 1984 and 1986 and again from 1995-1996.

In 2005 he left his lifelong Labour party to join the new centrist Kadima headed by Ariel Sharon.

The alliance ensured Israel withdrew troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip after 38 years of occupation, although hopes of subsequently reviving the peace process came to nothing.

Peres, who once rejected any compromise with hostile Arab states, says he was converted after 1977, when Egyptian president Anwar Sadat made a historic visit to Jerusalem, leading to the first Arab-Israeli peace treaty.

The extent of international admiration for Peres was seen at his lavish 80th birthday party, attended by ex-presidents Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev. Film director Woody Allen sent greetings "from a bad Jew to a very great Jew."

However, Peres could also be considered an electoral liability at home and never led Labour to victory.

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