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President Bongo is hospitalised in Spanish clinic

Video by Yuka ROYER

Latest update : 2009-05-22

President Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, who has long suffered from intestinal cancer, is receiving medical treatment at a clinic in Spain, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has announced.

AFP - Africa's longest-serving ruler, Gabon President Omar Bongo Ondimba, has been hospitalised in Spain, both governments said Thursday amid reports he is seriously ill with cancer.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told reporters during a visit to Bosnia that Bongo, 73, was "receiving medical treatment at a clinic" in the northeastern city of Barcelona.

In Libreville, the Gabonese presidency issued a statement to say that Bongo was "taking a few days of rest in Spain" including a "complete medical check-up", where he was also "taking appropriate treatment."

The news comes just weeks after a French judge announced a formal probe into the financial activities in France of Bongo, who has ruled his country for 41 years.

The investigation will also look into his ally President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

A complaint filed by Transparency International France accused the leaders, of having acquired millions of dollars of real estate in Paris and on the French Riviera and buying luxury cars with embezzled public money. The leaders deny any wrongdoing.

A non-Spanish source told AFP that Bongo was in serious condition in Barcelona's private Quiron hospital clinic, suffering from intestinal cancer.

The Gabonese statement confirmed that Bongo was in the clinic, but made no mention of cancer. It said the veteran leader was "taking a few days of rest" before "resuming his activities at the earliest opportunity."

Bongo "has not been under any surgery," it said, adding that "the head of state is naturally aware of the most pressing issues" of state.

It denounced "media harassment" that it said was aimed at "destablising" Gabon.

But the source said Bongo, who has headed the former French colony in west Africa since 1967, had also suffered a haemorrhage as he was being transferred to Spain about 10 days ago. He was accompanied by his entourage, including his daughter Pascaline Bongo.

The Barcelona-based daily La Vanguardia said in its online edition that the Gabonese leader was suffering from a "serious tumour." It also quoted Moratinos as saying his condition was "very bad."

A spokesman at Quiron confirmed that Bongo was undergoing treatment there, but gave no further details. According to two sources with knowledge of the situation, Bongo is slipping in and out of consciousness.

One of the sources said his intestinal cancer was now metastatic, or spreading to other parts of the body.

Sources close to the president in the Gabonese capital Libreville told AFP that he had "undergone an operation" but "is better."

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, during a visit to Cameroon, said Bongo was in a "satisfactory" condition as of Thursday morning.

"I know that the president is being cared for," Fillon said in response to a reporter's question. "I know that yesterday night still and this morning his health was satisfactory."

Bongo announced on May 6 that he was "temporarily" suspending his duties to rest and mourn the death in March of his wife.

The presidential statement said he had "suffered a shock of great emotional intensity after the premature death of his young wife following a long illness."

The announcement came the day after a French judge announced the decision to investigate the African leader and his colleagues for alleged corruption.

Since Bongo withdrew, he has not appeared in public, but a statement from the presidency said he had hardly ever taken a rest in the performance of his duties.

Bongo first entered the Gabonese government in 1965 and became vice president in 1967. He took over as head of state that year after the sudden death of the country's first post-independence leader Leon Mba.

He built a powerful dynasty in the country which has benefited from the discovery of oil, although much of the wealth is concentrated in a small proportion of the 1.5 million population.

The president's wife, Edith Lucie Bongo Odimba, daughter of Congo President Nguesso, died in Morocco in March at the age of 45 after a long illness.

Date created : 2009-05-21