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Spain

Spain's first post-Franco prime minister, Adolfo Suarez, dies aged 81

Adolfo Suarez, the first premier to lead Spain after the death of General Franco, has died. The former leader had been hospitalized earlier this month for a respiratory infection.

The death of Spain's first democratically elected prime minister, Adolfo Suarez, was announced on Sunday. Family spokesperson Fermin Urbiola said Suarez, 81, had passed away in a Madrid hospital in the early afternoon.

The cause of his death could not be immediately confirmed. However, the ex-premier was admitted to hospital for a respiratory infection on Monday. Suarez had also been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for roughly a decade.

Upon the news of Suarez' passing, former Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero praised his political legacy.

"Prime Minister Suarez' political career calls to mind the highest spirit of our democratic transition: recognition of dissenting voices, promotion of tolerance and the practice of dialogue," Zapatero told the Reuters news agency.

Suarez, born in 1932 in Avila, rose through Spain's only legal political party under the Franco regime, the National Movement, and also headed the country's first television channel. In 1976, King Juan Carlos appointed him to the position of prime minister, following the death of General Francisco Franco. He subsequently became the first leader to hold democratic elections in four decades.

Historian Javier Tusell described his role in Spain's transition as "second only to that of the king."

Suarez was known as a charismatic politician who helped manuever Spain through a turbulent political period. He resigned as premier in 1981.

kms/se (AFP, Reuters, dpa)