Israel PM Olmert says has early prostate cancer

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JERUSALEM, Oct 29 (Reuters) Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israelis today he will have minor surgery to remove a cancerous growth on his prostate gland but assured them that it would not affect his ability to govern.

The 62-year-old premier told a hastily convened news conference that he would have surgery in the coming months to deal with a tiny growth in its early stages. He added that he was not expected to need radiation or chemotherapy.

''From what my doctors have told me, this is a microscopic growth ... that can be removed with a brief surgical intervention,'' said, Olmert, a keen runner and fitness fanatic.

The growth was detected last week as part of annual check-up.

''The surgical procedure itself is planned to take place in the coming months. I will be fit and fully up to my duties before the procedure and within a few hours of its conclusion.

''There is nothing in the growth that is life-threatening or that could compromise my ... fitness for my assigned role,'' said Olmert, who appeared fit and relaxed.

''The Israeli public have the right to know.'' Olmert is engaged in high-pressure, US-sponsored talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, seeking a common position on establishing a Palestinian state ahead of a peace conference to be held later this year in the United States.

Olmert faces opposition within his own broad coalition cabinet to making territorial and other concessions and many observers questions whether he has the political capital to implement any settlement that might be negotiated.

Washington appears keen to bolster Olmert, partly out of concern that if he were forced out an Israeli election would probably derail any chance of a deal on Palestinian statehood before President George W Bush leaves office in January 2009.

Olmert has been dogged by criticism and talk of scandal for much of the 21 months since he took over the premiership when his centrist ally Ariel Sharon was incapacitated by a stroke.

Officials were criticised after Sharon lapsed into a coma for not disclosing earlier medical problems to voters.

The death toll and inconclusive outcome of the war Olmert launched last year against Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas saw his personal popularity ratings plunge to single digits. He was heavily criticised by a commission of inquiry that has yet to give its final conclusions. But he has refused to resign.

A lawyer and former mayor of Jerusalem, he is also fighting a series of police investigations into allegations of corruption while he was in previous posts. He denies all wrongdoing.

''I am indestructible,'' he was quoted as saying in April.

Reuters SKB RN1622

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