Ariel Sharon's health improves

Ariel Sharon's health has improved and he has been taken out of the intesive care unit after suffering through pneumonia, a hospital spokesman said Tuesday. His condition remains serious.

The former prime minister, 78, has been in a coma since he suffered the second of two strokes on Jan. 4. He has since undergone several extensive brain operations to stop cerebral hemorrhaging, in addition to other relatively minor procedures.

Sharon was transferred back to the respiratory rehabilitation department at Tel Aviv's Chaim Sheba Medical Center Tuesday since there has been a "noticeable improvement in his kidney function and the pneumonia in his lungs," spokesman David Weinberg said.

Sharon had an initial minor stroke in December and was put on blood thinners before suffering the severe brain hemorrhage in January. After spending months in the Jerusalem hospital where he was initially treated, Sharon was transferred to the long-term care facility at Sheba hospital in May.

He was rushed into intensive care July 26 for dialysis because his kidneys were failing. Hospital officials said they also noticed changes in his brain membrane.

Sharon's stroke came after he saw through his contentious plan to withdraw Israel from the Gaza Strip after 38 years. Just two months before the stroke, Sharon shook up the Israeli political map by bolting his hard-line Likud Party to form the centrist Kadima faction.