Is Arafat dead or dying?
Israeli private television and military radio has reported that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has died, but top Palestinian officials have denied the report
Yasser Arafat in coma
Thu 4 November, 2004 14:27
By Wafa Amr
PARIS (Reuters) - Palestinian President Yasser Arafat went into a coma overnight and is lying unconscious and in critical condition in the intensive care unit at a French military hospital, aides say.
Doctors carrying out tests on the 75-year-old leader since he was airlifted to France last Friday still did not know what was wrong with him, despite ruling out leukaemia, they said.
Arafat's immune system appeared quite weak as his health, which had at first stabilised after he arrived at the hospital, suddenly deteriorated on Wednesday, they said.
"Arafat is in a coma and in a critical condition," a senior Palestinian official told Reuters. He was transferred to the intensive care unit on Wednesday at around 5 p.m..
"He has no immunity whatsoever," said another aide, adding he slipped into the coma around 2 a.m. on Thursday.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, senior Palestinian officials denied he was in a coma. "No coma," Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie told reporters. "His condition is not getting better, nor is it worsening."
Arafat's slide into illness has raised fears of chaos among Palestinians locked in a 4-year-old uprising.
Arafat, loved by most Palestinians and reviled by many Israelis, has named no successor since emerging from exile under interim peace accords with Israel in the early 1990s.
The death of a leader Israel and Washington see as an obstacle to peace could also shuffle the cards in the Middle East conflict.
In Ramallah, the central committee of Arafat's Fatah faction in the Palestine Liberation Organisation met with the president's health topping the agenda. The PLO's executive committee was also called into session.
Arafat was rushed to France from the West Bank with severe stomach pains, diarrhoea and vomiting.
A briefing by the hospital had been expected at 11 a.m. but was put off without any explanation. Journalists at the hospital in Clamart, a southwestern Paris suburb, expected a statement later on Thursday.
"New tests have been carried out including an endoscopy (visual internal examination). Nothing was found out from those tests," a senior aide said earlier on Thursday.
According to France 2 television, the Palestinian leader was very weak and seemed to have reacted badly to tests his doctors were carrying out to determine the cause of his illness.