serwad 07 Jan 2006 THEY CAN NO LONGER HIDE THIS FROM THE WORLD! JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the most powerful Israeli leader in 50 years, has died. He was 77. Sharon was declared dead by physicians at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital before 1 p.m. Israeli time [6 a.m. EST], Middle East Newsline reported. Authorities have already been notified of the death, and a government announcement was expected to be issued over the next hour. The prime minister was felled by a massive stroke on late Jan. 4. A nine-hour operation failed to repair what physicians and officials termed was widespread damage to his brain and other vital organs. A computed tomography scan taken on Friday morning showed little to no brain activity in Sharon. At that point, Sharon's son, Omri, called aides and senior officials to the hospital to prepare for an announcement of the prime minister's death. Sharon was expected to be succeeded by Vice Premier Ehud Olmert, who is also the nation's finance minister. On Friday, Olmert met Sharon's political ally, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, in an attempt to form a working relationship ahead of parliamentary elections on March 28.