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Mubarak, long-time pharaoh with recent health problems

CAIRO (AFP) -- Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, whose health was the subject of contradictory reports on Sunday two weeks before he was due to face trial on August 3 for murder and corruption, enjoyed near absolute power for three decades as president before being toppled in February.

The health ministry denied a report that he had gone into a "full coma" at the hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh where he has been held after reportedly suffering a heart attack during police questioning in April.

However, another medical source told AFP: "It seems there has been some deterioration in his health, but the reports of a coma are still unclear."

His fall from grace was one Mubarak found difficult to accept.

On April 10, in his first statement since his resignation, he told pan-Arab news network Al-Arabiya that he and his family were the victims of "false claims that seek to ruin my reputation and challenge my integrity."

In a move that angered many Egyptians, he even threatened libel suits against any media reporting the allegations against him.

Until anti-government protests erupted on January 25, Mubarak seemed insurmountable as president of the most populous nation in the Arab world, backed by the United States and the military from whose ranks he had emerged.

Mubarak, now 83, had survived 10 attempts on his life, and his health was a subject of speculation. But in the end, it was his people who brought down Egypt's latter-day pharaoh.

His rise to power came unexpectedly, when his predecessor Anwar Sadat -- who made history by signing a peace deal with Israel -- was gunned down by Islamist militants on October 6, 1981 at a military parade in Cairo.

Mubarak took office a week after the assassination, and since then ruled without interruption until February this year.

Islamic fundamentalist groups -- including Al-Jihad, Gamaa Islamiyya and Talaeh al-Fatah -- were responsible for most of the attempts on Mubarak's life on both Egyptian and foreign soil.

The first direct attempt to kill him came in 1993, a year after Islamists launched a campaign of violence aimed at toppling the secular Egyptian government, when a bid to fire rockets at his plush Cairo residence was foiled.

Later murder attempts included a plot to car-bomb the presidential motorcade in Cairo.