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Sarkozy ‘doing well’ after jogging collapse: aide

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Sarkozy ‘doing well’ after jogging collapse: aide

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was “doing well” in hospital after collapsing during a weekend jog, his chief of staff said, as the ailing leader was urged to cut back on his gruelling schedule.

Sarkozy, 54, collapsed Sunday while running at his weekend retreat near the Versailles palace west of Paris. He was taken to a military hospital in the capital by helicopter after the incident. A presidential aide said the French leader — who took office in May 2007 — was suffering from a “minor” problem related to his vagus nerve, which helps the body regulate the heart rate.

Sarkozy is “doing well,” his chief of staff Claude Gueant told AFP. The French leader is scheduled to leave the Val de Grace hospital later on Monday.

“He’s fine. He’s hungry. He’s complaining. Everything’s going well,” lawmaker and Sarkozy ally Patrick Balkany told RTL radio after talking to Gueant and first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

“Carla reassured us straight away… it’s a passing thing. The president is going to have to take more care, work a little less hard and eat a little bit more,” he added, blaming the incident on Sarkozy’s recent efforts to lose weight.

“Recently the president has looked very honed — he looks more like a Tour de France rider than a president,” he joked.

A condition known as vasovagal syncope can reduce the heart rate and blood pressure — particularly if the victim is dehydrated. Patients can faint but normally make a complete recovery, medical experts said.

Sarkozy’s office said there were no plans to cancel his visit on Tuesday to the Mont Saint Michel abbey in Normandy, and he was set to start his vacation at the end of the week.

“Clinical and complementary examinations testing neurological functions came back with normal results,” including blood tests, an electroencephalogram (EEG) measuring electrical activity of the brain and an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, the French presidency said in a statement.

It said it would give an update on his condition on Monday. According to the Elysee, Sarkozy’s doctor was with the running party and was able to attend to him immediately.

“The malaise, which did not involve a loss of consciousness, followed 45 minutes of intense exercise,” it said. A witness, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP she saw a runner surrounded by bodyguards stumble and collapse in the grounds of La Lanterne.

Sarkozy, a fitness enthusiast, is often seen jogging or cycling with aides and bodyguards. Just over three weeks ago, the Elysee released the findings of Sarkozy’s latest annual health check-up, describing the results of recent blood and heart tests as “normal.” No further details were provided.

During his election campaign, Sarkozy pledged to publish regular health bulletins. So far the Elysee has published one full report, five days after the president was sworn in, saying he was fit to hold office.

Sarkozy was briefly hospitalised in October 2007 for minor throat surgery. The presidency never officially reported the operation, but it was confirmed by aides in January 2008. His office said afterwards that the Elysee would publish health bulletins on a yearly basis, but none was released in 2008.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown wished Sarkozy a “speedy recovery,” a British spokesman said. Secrecy has long surrounded the health of French leaders, with former Socialist president Francois Mitterrand able to hide for 11 years the fact that he had prostate cancer, diagnosed soon after his election in 1981.

He died in 1996, less than eight months after leaving office.

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US envoy set for talks in Cairo

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US envoy set for talks in Cairo

The US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, is due to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss the stalled Middle East peace process.

He arrived in Cairo a day early at Mr Mubarak’s request, following talks in Syria and Israel. In Tel Aviv, Mr Mitchell reassured Israeli officials of Washington’s unshakeable commitment to its security. Relations had soured after US President Barack Obama demanded a halt to all Israeli settlement on Palestinian land.

In Damascus, Mr Mitchell met Syrian President Bashar Assad for what he called “very candid and positive” discussions on restarting peace talks between Syria and Israel, which have been stalled since 2000. Following talks with the Egyptian president, Mr Mitchell is due to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Monday and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Diplomatic push

The visits are part of a week-long high-level diplomatic push by Washington to re-start peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians which have been frozen for six months.

Palestinian leaders have refused to meet their Israeli counterparts until illegal settlement activity has stopped. Other senior US officials are also due to visit the region this week.

US defence secretary Robert Gates, National Security Advisor James Jones and US envoy to the Gulf states, Dennis Ross, are due in the region for talks. Mr Gates will first meet his Israeli counterpart in Jerusalem before travelling to Jordan for discussions with King Abdullah.

Iran and its nuclear programme are expected to be on the agenda in talks with Israel.

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Iran opposition leaders request OK to commemorate dead

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Iran opposition leaders request OK to commemorate dead

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi and a fellow presidential candidate are requesting a permit to hold a commemoration ceremony for those killed in the fallout after the June 12 elections, according to a post on Moussavi’s Web site Sunday.

At least 20 protesters were killed and more than 1,000 were arrested in Tehran in the first few days after the election, according to human rights groups.

Moussavi, a reformist and chief rival to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and fellow candidate Mehdi Karrubi sent the letter requesting a permit for the ceremony to the Islamic republic’s interior minister, according to Moussavi’s Ghalam News Web site.

The candidates want to hold the ceremony on Thursday at the site for Friday prayers, saying the date would signify the 40th day after the chaotic street demonstrations. For Iranians, a predominantly Shiite Muslim population, the 40th day marks the last official day of mourning in the immediate aftermath of a death.

The letter indicates that there will be no speeches at the proposed ceremony — only recitations from the Quran. Those who attend would be asked to pay their respects to the dead protesters by remaining silent, the letter says

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