04 November 2004

Arafat's Condition Grave

Sharon and the hardline Israelis would love to dance on Arafat's grave...


Rising Crisis Over Arafat Health
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's health has deteriorated sharply at the Paris hospital where he is being treated for an unexplained illness.

He is in intensive care, but aides have issued conflicting reports about whether he has fallen into a coma.

Israeli TV has reported Mr Arafat is brain dead, although this was denied by the hospital and Palestinian officials.

Mr Arafat, 75, was flown to a military hospital in Paris last week. He has led the Palestinians since the 1960s.

An emergency meeting of top Palestinian officials has taken place in the West Bank to discuss the crisis.

At his Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, officials stated publicly that Mr Arafat was "absolutely not in a coma".

But sources close to his entourage in Paris said he had fallen unconscious three times in the past two days, and had not regained consciousness the third time.

Israel's Channel Two television meanwhile quoted unnamed sources in Paris saying that Arafat underwent a brain scan and was found to be "no longer alive".

'Difficult condition'

BBC correspondent James Reynolds says that, while public statements from Palestinian officials in Ramallah remain positive, their expressions suggest the situation of their leader is serious.

Officials gathered for meetings of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation decision-making executive committee and the Fatah movement central committee - both of which have been headed by Mr Arafat for more than 40 years.

"The condition of the president is difficult, but he is stable and doctors are continuing their tests," senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the AFP news agency.

Mr Arafat was flown to the French capital last Friday from his headquarters in Ramallah with a mystery illness.

At the time, he was said to have collapsed after suffering from what was first described as severe gastric flu.

Doctors say they have found no trace of leukaemia or any other cancer. They have been checking for a viral infection.

French President Jacques Chirac has visited Mr Arafat, but a presidential spokeswoman who announced the visit did not give any details about the patient's state of health.

It was a brief visit in which the president "expressed his best wishes" to Mr Arafat's wife, his office said.

Tests have shown that he has a low count of blood platelets, which are needed for clotting, but doctors are unsure of what is causing the condition.

Trouble spots

On Thursday, Israeli security chiefs discussed Mr Arafat's condition at their weekly briefing.

The military has been put on high alert, although no troops have been moved into potential trouble spots.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said he would allow Mr Arafat to return to the West Bank if he recovers.

But he has made it clear he will not allow his old adversary to be buried in Muslim holy ground in east Jerusalem.

Palestinian security chiefs are also due to hold meetings in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip.

There are fears that Mr Arafat's possible demise could spark chaos in the volatile Gaza Strip, already destabilised by inter-factional fighting and uncertainty over Israel's planned pullout from the area.

There is no clear line of succession should Mr Arafat be unable to continue in power.

He has not anointed a successor, although the parliamentary speaker would take over temporarily.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/11/04 16:52:02 GMT



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