- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2004

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would undergo a routine medical procedure today to correct an irregular heartbeat, a surprise announcement linked to treatment he had a year ago.

Mr. Blair said yesterday that the procedure would be carried out under local anesthetic, and would affect neither his job nor his plans to seek a third straight term in next year’s elections.

Mr. Blair made the announcement just hours after appearing onstage for the closing ceremony of his Labor Party’s annual convention in the southern English seaside town of Brighton.

“It’s a sort of fluttering. It doesn’t stop you working, and indeed I’ve been working the last couple of months since it happened,” he told British Broadcasting Corp. television. “I’m going to go in and have this routine operation tomorrow.”

Mr. Blair has suffered through his toughest two years as prime minister, facing intense opposition because of his support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The war was the focus of the annual convention, held this week in Brighton.

Mr. Blair will be sedated during the 21/2-hour procedure, called a catheter ablation, for the heart condition supraventricular tachycardia.

Mr. Blair’s office at No. 10 Downing St. said he will stay in the hospital tonight and rest over the weekend before returning to “normal duties” on Monday. He will go ahead with a scheduled visit to Africa on Tuesday, the office said.

He said his doctor assured him that the condition wasn’t connected to anything more serious.

“I feel fine; I feel great. What happens every so often is that you get a flutter. … Apparently there is a procedure that is very easy to do and fixes it,” Mr. Blair said.

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