Fri, Nov 05, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Arafat in a coma and on life support, French source says


Yasser Arafat is in a coma on life-support equipment in the intensive care unit of a Paris hospital, French medical sources said yesterday as confusion heightened over the Palestinian leader's condition.

"He is still in a coma," the medical sources said.

The report was contradicted by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, however, who told reporters Arafat was not in a coma.

"He is not in a coma," he told reporters. "There have been examinations and results are positive," he said without elaborating.

Earlier Palestinian sources said the 75 year-old has slipped into unconsciousness three times over the last 24 hours and could not confirm if he had regained consciousness on the last occasion. However a top aide Nabil Abu Rudeina denied that Arafat was in a coma.

The French medical sources said that Arafat was failing to respond to treatment, and that he had not received proper medical care while kept under virtual house order by Israel at his Ramallah headquarters.

Arafat -- for 40 years the symbol of the Palestinian struggle for statehood -- was admitted to the Percy military hospital in the Paris suburb of Clamart last Friday after being dramatically evacuated from the West Bank. He is suffering from an unknown blood ailment.

On Wednesday, he was transferred to an intensive care unit after a deterioration in his condition.

Amid the confision of rumours Abu Rudeina told reporters Thursday that Arafat was "not unconscious and not in a coma."

"He did not lose consciousness, he is not unconscious and not in a coma either. He was indeed admitted to an intensive care unit as his condition is not improving despite positive preliminary tests," Abu Rudeina said.

"He is still ill and he needs additional tests but he is not in a coma or in any danger," Abu Rudeina said.

Palestinian negotiations minister Saeb Erakat also tried to play down fears about Arafat's health after speaking with Arafat's wife Suha and the Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Nasser Al-Qidwa.

"The condition of the president is difficult but he is stable and doctors are continuing their tests," he told reporters. "It's not true that Arafat is unconscious."

But one unnamed source in the delegation that accompanied the ailing president of the Palestinian Authority to Paris last week said earlier Thursday that Arafat had been unconscious for several hours. The executive committee of Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israeli intelligence officers were meeting separately Thursday to discuss Arafat's deteriorating condition.

After a stream of positive comments from Palestinian officials about the results of preliminary tests carried out by the French army doctors, Arafat was transferred Wednesday to the hospital's intensive care unit.

Earlier this week, a first medical report officially ruled out leukemia as the reason for Arafat's declining health, saying he was suffering from digestive problems.

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