Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on Friday expressed his concern and sympathy for the failing health of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was clinging to life in hospital after a massive stroke.
"Mr. Sharon is widely and deeply admired in Australia and throughout the world as a passionate fighter for Israel in both war and peace," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in a statement.
"Mr. Sharon has played a pivotal role in the Middle East peace process. His courage in pushing ahead with disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank has been particularly noteworthy and a very difficult decision for someone closely connected with the Jewish settlements," Downer added.
Sharon's deputy, Ehud Olmert, has been installed as acting prime minister. Downer said he hoped the peace process would continue.
"Australia hopes that all parties to the Middle East peace process continue the work of Mr. Sharon to bring the roadmap for the Middle East peace process to fruition," he said.