Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister, has been recuperating in a London hospital after undergoing surgery to remove a growth in her bladder.

The former Conservative Party leader was "absolutely fine" following the operation, Thatcher's spokeswoman said on Friday.

Friends said the 87-year-old, Britain's only female prime minister, was doing "fine" following the operation but was likely to remain in hospital over Christmas.

Dubbed the "Iron Lady", Britain's prime minister from 1979 to 1990, was admitted to hospital on Thursday after feeling unwell.

"The hospital examined her, discovered a small growth in her bladder and they decided to remove it using what they describe as minimally invasive surgery, so no heavy anaesthetics and so on," Lord Tim Bell, a long-time adviser and friend, said.

"She'll stay in hospital for a few more days to recuperate and then she'll go home".

Subdued figure

The former prime minister's daughter, Carol, has been at her side in hospital. Her son, Mark, is believed to be abroad on holiday.

Carol once revealed that the former prime minister had to be repeatedly reminded that her husband Denis had died in 2003.

In recent years, Thatcher - the 20th century's longest continuous occupant of 10 Downing Street - has been a subdued figure.

After a series of minor strokes, she was told by doctors to quit public speaking in 2002. With dementia taking hold, she has appeared increasingly rarely in public.

In July, she was not well enough to attend a Downing Street lunch thrown for Queen Elizabeth II, to celebrate the monarch's diamond jubilee.

Thatcher's health was thrust into the global spotlight this year when US actress Meryl Streep starred in a controversial film based on her life.

Source: Agencies