Doctors in Panama say former dictator Manuel Noriega is "stable" after being hospitalized for extreme hypertension.

Health Minister Franklin Vergara says Noriega is "conscious and well oriented," and will be kept for 48 hours for observation at Panama City's public Santo Tomas hospital.

Vergara said in a statement Monday that officials plan to return Noriega to the El Renacer prison after the observation period.

Noriega was toppled by a 1989 U.S. invasion and served a drug sentence in a U.S. prison.

He was returned on Dec. 11 from France to serve a combined 60-year Panamanian prison sentence for murder, embezzlement and corruption.

The 77-year-old Noriega was transferred from prison to a hospital on Sunday.