A TOP doctor flown in from Britain to help treat ailing Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, hooked up to life-support systems, tonight said he still had a fighting chance.

``There is a chance of the Prime Minister recovering,'' said Sir Magdi Yacoub, the British surgeon who performed open heart surgery on Papandreou in 1988 and who was called in to see him.

Professor Yacoub told reporters that Papandreou's recovery would not be ``immediate or in the very near future'', but doctors were hopeful.

Yacoub, who is based at Harefield Hospital, Middlesex, was flown to Greece by the Prime Minister's personal plane accompanied by Harefield anaesthetist Dr Gavin Wright and a renal expert.

Yacoub gave Papandreou a triple heart by-pass in 1988.

He was the last in a series of foreign specialists flown in to see Papandreou, 76, who was admitted to the Onassis Heart Centre 10 days ago suffering from pneumonia.

The country's first socialist leader has been kept alive by a respirator to help his breathing and a dialysis machine supporting his kidneys.

The latest medical bulletin, issued this evening, said his condition was unchanged and he was still on life-support machines.

``The situation of the Prime Minister's health has not changed in the last six hours. He had dialysis, which he tolerated well and his breathing is still being supported by a respirator,'' said a statement.

Earlier, hospital spokes-man Gregory Skalkeas said Papandreou's heart was working properly and that there was still hope he would recover.

``The premier can't breathe on his own,'' Skalkeas said. ``His heart is working properly and he is responding to the treatment for his lungs and kidneys. This tells us there is hope that the premier will recover.''

Hundreds of supporters have camped outside the hospital for days. Today is the feast of St Andrew's Day when Papandreou celebrates his name day - equivalent to a birthday in Greece - and many brought flowers and sweets to the hospital steps.

Senior socialist politicians have kept silent in public on the question of choosing a successor to the man who founded the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) in 1974.

However party sources said wheeling and dealing was intense and it would probably boil down to a contest between Defence Minister Gerassimos Arsenis and former Industry Minister Costas Simitis.

Both have solid pockets of support in the 170-member socialist parliamentary group, which will pick the replacement for Papandreou if he can no longer carry out his duties.

It was later announced that Interior Minister and Papandreou confidant Akis Tsohatzopoulos would stand in for the premier at the EU summit in Madrid in two weeks' time.

DUBAI: King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, ruler of the world's richest oil producer, was in hospital in Riyadh for check-ups today. The court made the announcement but did not reveal whether the 73-year-old king was ill.-Reuter.