Abbas undergoes heart procedure

Hamas's Zahar wishes Abbas well; angiogram highlights lack of successor at the helm of the PA.

Abbas 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's heart procedure has turned attention to the lack of a succession process in the circumstances facing Palestinian government, with Abbas controlling the West Bank and Hamas running Gaza. Abbas had a heart procedure Thursday in Jordan to check for blockages in blood vessels, but no problems were found and he was promptly discharged from the hospital, Palestinian officials said. Presidential aides and Abbas's doctor planned to return to the West Bank on Friday and quickly resume work. The treatment drew attention to Abbas' delicate health history, including a similar procedure three years ago. In Amman, Abbas's physician, Dr. Abdullah al-Bashir, said he performed the angiogram as part of a routine annual medical checkup. In an angiogram, doctors insert a catheter into a blood vessel, thread it into the heart and inject a dye to check the heart and look for any blockages. If blockages are found, a balloon is inflated to open up the artery, but al-Bashir said that wasn't necessary. "In order to make sure that everything is normal, we did a catheterization and not ballooning," al-Bashir told The Associated Press. He said Abbas left the hospital and would return to the West Bank on Friday. Abbas aid Saeb Erekat said Abbas planned to resume his schedule immediately and has meetings planned with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday and with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert next week. Abbas's medical procedure added even more uncertainty to the peace process. Though aides said the leader was in good health, it raised new questions about his condition. Abbas was treated for prostate cancer years ago in the United States, and underwent another angiogram in 2005 after he complained about fatigue. Dr. Stephen Siegel, a cardiologist at the New York University School of Medicine, said angiograms are not normally performed during routine checkups in the United States. Siegel, who is not involved in Abbas's treatment, said doctors normally order the procedure only when there is an indication of blockage in the arteries, such as chest pain. However, he said doctors often go "above and beyond" standard treatments when caring for world leaders and other VIPs. At the time of his 2005 angiogram, Abbas said he hoped to name a vice president who could succeed him if he were incapacitated. But Abbas never followed through on the pledge, in part because the rival Hamas group swept parliamentary elections shortly after. Under Palestinian law, the parliament speaker is supposed to serve as a caretaker president if a sitting president is incapacitated, until new elections are held. But Abbas's Fatah party is unlikely to cede control to the current speaker, Aziz Duaik, who is a member of Hamas, or call new elections in the current environment. Despite the animosity between Fatah and Hamas, Abbas's procedure sparked a rare friendly phone call from a senior Hamas leader in Gaza. Mahmoud Zahar called Abbas late Thursday to wish him well, according to a statement from Zahar's office.