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Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi leaves the stage flanked by his girlfriend Francesca Pascale at the end of a rally to protest his tax fraud conviction, outside his palace in central Rome, Italy August 4, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/

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By Ilaria Polleschi

MILAN (Reuters) - Four-time Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi will undergo heart surgery by the middle of next week to replace a defective aortic valve and should make a swift recovery, his doctor said on Thursday.

The 79-year-old centre-right leader and media mogul was admitted to hospital on Monday suffering from what his doctors called a cardiac deficiency.

"He risked dying. He was in a really serious, worrying condition and he knew it," Berlusconi's personal doctor Alberto Zangrillo told reporters. "For a man who wants to live to be 130, this is a very unpleasant jolt."

After the news of the diagnosis sank in, he "showed great courage and determination" and "put his complete trust in us", Zangrillo said, adding that he should have fully recovered from the surgery within a month.

He said there was a two percent risk of mortality tied to the operation, which was expected to last four hours.

Earlier on Thursday, a spokeswoman for his Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party had denied press reports that Berlusconi, who has worn a pacemaker since he was 70, would need an operation.

Berlusconi's once powerful centre-right has become increasingly fragmented in recent years, especially since he lost his grip on power in 2011 at the height of the euro zone debt crisis.

His party suffered mixed fortunes in Sunday's local elections, with his candidate to become mayor in Rome coming a lowly fourth. The bruising campaign took its toll on Berlusconi and his doctor said he would benefit from quitting politics.

There is no indication that Berlusconi is ready to follow his advice.

(Additional reporting by Valentina Consiglio, writing by Steve Scherer and Crispian Balmer; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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