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Sharon to be permanently replaced, Friday

ISRAEL, Israel, April 11 (UPI) -- With Prime Minister Ariel Sharon still unconscious following a massive brain stroke, the Israeli Cabinet Wednesday formally closed the door on his tenure.

As of midnight Friday, acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be Interim Prime Minister, the Cabinet decided. It is just a change of title, not powers, since Olmert already has all of Sharon's powers.

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On Jan. 4, a few minutes after Sharon was hospitalized with severe bleeding in the brain, Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon and Attorney General Menahem Mazuz jointly transferred his powers to Olmert, who had been designated acting prime minister.

Sharon is still in the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem whose spokeswoman described his condition as, "serious and stable."

The law provides that "After the passage of 100 days upon which the prime minister does not resume his duties, the pPrime minister will be deemed permanently unable to exercise his office."

In a voice choking with emotion, Maimon noted these 100 days will be up Friday.

The Cabinet convened Tuesday because the Passover holiday begins Wednesday evening. Maimon said that by Friday the Government must appoint a minister, from Sharon's faction, to serve as Interim Prime Minister until a new government is formed.

"The proposal before you is that Kadima Chairman acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert serve as interim prime minister," should Sharon's condition remain unchanged by midnight Friday, Maimon said. The ministers approved the motion.

Olmert has not moved into Sharon's seat and has remained in his old office. Sharon's nameplate remained in its place near his wooden gravel.

Sharon is still at the Hadassah hospital and last week doctors returned part of the skull they had removed to treat him. It seemed like a preparation for his removal to another institution or home.

Since his stroke Israel held national elections that Kadima, won. Olmert is now trying to form the next coalition that would replace his current government.

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