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With one last swipe at the EU, Thatcher retires from public stage

Margaret Thatcher, the indomitable "Iron Lady" who led Britain through 11 tumultuous years, is retiring from the public stage after a series of small strokes.

Her decision came after a fresh blast at the European Union put her back in the news this week and caused some members of her Conservative Party to wish their former leader would quietly leave the limelight.

Thatcher, 76, was resting at home in London, her office said.

"She is all right, but this is a significant precautionary measure to avoid any future such strokes," said her spokesman, Mark Worthington.

Thatcher had canceled a speaking engagement on Tuesday, and her office confirmed Friday that she did so because of another small stroke.

"Over recent months, Lady Thatcher has suffered a number of small strokes," her office said. "Her doctors have told her that these can neither be predicted nor prevented. They have therefore told her to cut back her program at once."

Her ailment came to light in January, when Carol Thatcher confirmed that her mother had suffered a small stroke while celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary.

As prime minister from 1979-90, Thatcher was the ideological soulmate of President Ronald Reagan. The "Iron Lady" nickname was coined by the Soviet press in response to her vigorous anti-communism.

Though she had said she intended to go "on and on," her party _ in a panic over low poll ratings _ ousted her in 1990.

She stirred new controversy this week with publication of a book, Statecraft, in which she called for Britain to withdraw from EU institutions.

In excerpts published in a London newspaper, she said the euro was destined to fail and denounced the currency as "nothing more or less than an instrument for forging a European superstate."

She described creation of the EU as "perhaps the greatest folly of the modern era" and wrote that most of the 20th century's greatest problems _ including Nazism and Marxism _ originated on the continent.

Such bluntness has caused political discomfort to her successor as Conservative Party leader, Iain Duncan Smith.

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