Monday 1 November 2004

Arafat possibly poisoned: doctors

Be Afraid... Medical tests on the ailing Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, have ruled out leukaemia or any other life-threatening condition.

"The latest tests have found that President Arafat does not suffer from any life-threatening illness and what he has is curable," an aide, Nabil Abu Rdainah, said yesterday.

Mr Arafat, 75, underwent tests and scans on Saturday at a French military hospital the day after being flown from his shell-battered compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Doctors are looking at a possible viral infection or poisoning, but the final test results will not be available until Wednesday.

Another aide, Mohammad Rachid, said Mr Arafat was sleeping much better, eating moderately and keeping his food down.

He had been vomiting and slipping in and out of consciousness before leaving Ramallah.

Mr Arafat was accompanied to the Percy Army Teaching Hospital in the Paris suburb of Clamart, which specialises in the treatment of blood disorders, by his wife Suha. He is expected to be joined on Wednesday by his daughter Zahwa, who spoke to him by telephone from Tunis on Saturday.

Mr Arafat, in effect confined to his offices by Israeli forces for the past 2- years, agreed to fly to France only after Israel promised to allow him to return to the West Bank after treatment.

Mr Arafat arrived at the French hospital with an abnormally low blood platelets count, a condition that can be caused by leukaemia but can also be a symptom of other serious illnesses.

French doctors and authorities have declined to comment and say they will only do so once all checks are complete.

Mr Arafat was brought to France on direct orders from President Jacques Chirac, who insists that peace will be hard to achieve if a man who has for so long enshrined the Palestinian struggle for statehood is sidelined.

Senior Palestinian figures gathered at Mr Arafat's battered West Bank compound on Saturday to show that the Palestinian leadership was still functioning. But Mr Arafat's chair was left empty in a gesture to the veteran leader.

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