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US Defence Chief In Hospital, Transfers Powers To Deputy

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin was admitted to a hospital on February 11, a Pentagon spokesman said.

According to the statement, this time he has been admitted “for symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue”, weeks after previous stays he controversially kept secret.

Austin has transferred his duties to deputy secretary of defence Kathleen Hicks, defence department press secretary Pat Ryder said in a statement.

In December, Austin had vanished from the public eye for treatment for prostate cancer and underwent a procedure called prostatectomy on December 22. However, he experienced complications and was admitted to the intensive care unit at Walter Reed army medical centre in Washington DC on January 1.

Austin had come under severe criticism for keeping his previous hospital stays secret. Information regarding the diagnosis and treatment were concealed from US President Joe Biden and the rest of the government.

Apologising earlier this month for now disclosing information, Austin said, “I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis.”

Austin had admitted that “taking this kind of job means losing some of the privacy that most of us expect. The American people have a right to know if their leaders are facing health challenges that might affect their ability to perform their duties, even temporarily”.

Austin is scheduled to testify before the Congress at the end of this month about his failure to notify government leaders

Various Republican lawmakers had earlier asked for Biden to sack Austin.

The hospital stay comes at a time when the US is facing several challenges in West Asia with American forces in Iraq and Syria coming under attacks from Iranian-backed militias.

Austin was meant to travel to Brussels on February 13 for a meeting of the Ukraine contact group, which he established in 2022 to coordinate military support for Kyiv after Russia’s invasion.

Along with that there were plans to attend a regular meeting of Nato defence ministers.