Japan reconsidering PM's planned visit to Israel

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's grave illness has prompted Japan to reconsider plans for its leader to visit the Middle East this week, the Japanese government said Thursday. Sharon suffered a massive stroke on Wednesday and was undergoing lengthy surgery to drain blood from his brain - a blow to the efforts toward peace with the Palestinians. A key part of the agenda for Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the region was to have been a meeting with Sharon, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told reporters. "Taking into consideration that Sharon is in the hospital and undergoing an operation, we acknowledge that it may be very difficult" for Koizumi to hold talks with Sharon, Abe said.