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Former dictator, 91, of Chile clings to life

Gen. Augusto Pinochet was fighting for his life in a Chilean hospital Sunday after suffering a heart attack, but doctors said his condition was improving after an emergency procedure to restore blood flow to his heart.

Doctors initially said they planned bypass surgery Sunday on the 91-year-old former strongman who ruled Chile for 17 years but they later ruled it out. Dr. Juan Ignacio Vergara, a member of the team treating Pinochet, said the surgery was not needed after an angioplasty performed in the morning to clear a heart artery obstruction "allowed improvement in his condition."

Vergara said bypass surgery was extremely risky for someone of Pinochet's age.

Vergara made clear Pinochet's condition continued to be serious "and the next 24 to 48 hours will be critical to see whether other complications appear."

Earlier, Pinochet's younger son, Marco Antonio Pinochet, said his father had been "virtually rescued from death" with the angioplasty.

The former leader's spokesman, retired Gen. Guillermo Garin, said last rites had been administered at Gen. Luis Felipe Brieba Military Hospital.

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