A baby girl who faced death in Baghdad after vital equipment was looted from the hospital where she was being treated was recovering in London last night after a life- saving heart operation.

The parents of four-month-old Heava Jesim were at her bedside in the Royal Brompton Hospital's intensive care unit.

Doctors said the next 48 hours would be critical. Heava was in a stable condition and surgeons were said to be pleased with how the three-hour operation went.

She was born with a hole in her heart but doctors in Iraq did not have the equipment to correct the defect to save the baby's life. Such operations are routine in the UK, even on children as young as Heava.

Her plight was taken up by the charity Chain of Hope, which arranged the treatment at the Royal Brompton. The hospital specialises in heart and lung surgery.

The surgeon Babul Sethia operated on Heava and discovered the heart defect was not as severe as first feared. "The surgeons are very pleased with the way surgery went," a spokeswoman for the hospital said.

"The next couple of days will also determine how long she has to stay in recovery, and until she goes on to a ward and can go home."

"Heava's parents are both here and are happy with the progress she is making and are delighted with the fact that she has had surgery. They are still at the bedside."

Heava's local hospital in Baghdad had its machines stolen in the widespread lawlessness after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Emma Scanlon, of Chain of Hope, told BBC News: "She was not going to survive a few more days in Baghdad."

Charity volunteers arranged for Heava to be flown to Kuwait and then Britain accompanied by a doctor and nurse from the Royal Brompton.

Heava is expected to be in hospital for two weeks, after which she is expected to be able to return to Iraq to be cared for by her parents, who are staying with an Iraqi family in London.