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LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, who suffered a second stroke in June, is heavily sedated and is expected to remain in a French military hospital for a long time, Health Minister Brian Chituwo said.

In a broadcast on state television on Friday night, Chituwo said Mwanawasa remained in a “stable but heavily sedated” condition in the hospital to which he was flown after suffering a stroke during an African Union summit in Egypt.

Speculation that Mwanawasa, 59, may be unable to return to work has prompted demands that doctors examine him and decide whether he is fit to remain president.

 If parliament decides he is incapacitated Mwanawasa, who suffered a mild stroke in 2006, could be forced to step down. Vice President Rupiah Banda would take over as acting president and elections would be called.

“Let us all clearly remember that by the serious nature of our president’s illness, the healing process will indeed be long. Presently, he is in a stable but heavily sedated condition,” Chituwo said.

Mwanawasa is a favourite of the International Monetary Fund and other Western donors, who extended billions of dollars in debt relief after he cracked down on government spending and launched an anti-graft drive.

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