Israeli cabinet declares Sharon's tenure over

Ariel Sharon's five-year tenure as prime minister of Israel was brought to an end on Tuesday when the cabinet declared him permanently incapacitated

Ariel Sharon's five-year tenure as prime minister of Israel was brought to an end on Tuesday when the cabinet declared him permanently incapacitated.

The 78-year-old Sharon has been in a coma since early January, when he suffered a devastating stroke. Doctors in Israel believe he has little chance of recovery.

Under Israeli law, a prime minister can be temporarily replaced for up to 100 days before a permanent successor must be named.

It will have been 100 days on Friday since Ehud Olmert was named Sharon's temporary replacement. However, since the weeklong Jewish Passover holiday begins Wednesday, the declaration of permanent incapacitation was moved up to Tuesday.

The cabinet voted unanimously in a special session on Tuesday to designate Olmert acting prime minister. The appointment takes effect on Friday, Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon said.

Sharon suffered his stroke weeks after leaving the right-wing Likud party to form the centrist Kadima.

Olmert led the new party to a narrow election victory last month, running on a plan to withdraw from parts of the West Bank and draw Israel's final borders by 2010.

Sharon underwent a CT scan Monday to determine the progress of surgery performed last week that reattached a portion of his skull which had been removed in a previous operation.

Hospital officials said the scan revealed no change. Sharon is listed in "serious but stable" condition, so doctors do not believe his life is in immediate danger.