Thu, Nov 11, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Arafat clings to life while funeral and burial finalized

AFP , CLAMART, FRANCE, AND RAMALLAH, WEST BANK

Yasser Arafat is "still alive", senior Islamic cleric Tayssir el-Tamimi said Wednesday after visiting the Palestinian leader in hospital.

"He is alive. He is ill and his condition is very bad, but he is still alive," Tamimi, head of Islamic courts in the Palestinian territories, told reporters.

"I remained at Arafat's side for almost one hour and I asked God to relieve his suffering," said the cleric, who flew to France earlier Wednesday to visit the critically-ill 75-year-old Palestinian leader at his bedside in the Percy military clinic outside Paris.

Tamimi said he would return to the hospital later yesterday.

His arrival had encouraged rumors that a death announcement was imminent, but the cleric had strongly denied suggestions that he was there to authorize the switch-off of Arafat's artificial respirator.

"There is no question of switching off the equipment. It is against Islamic law which bans this type of practice. As long as there is warmth and life in his body, we cannot switch off the equipment," he said at the hospital earlier before visiting Arafat.

Arafat was airlifted to Paris from Ramallah on October 29 suffering from an undiagnosed blood disorder and a week ago slipped into a coma.

On Monday night his condition deteriorated further, doctors said.

A delegation of four Palestinian leaders visited him in hospital Tuesday.

In related news, the Palestinian Authority has accepted an offer from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to hold an official funeral for Arafat in Cairo, the head of Arafat's office, Tayeb Abdelrahim said yesterday.

"The PLO Legislative Committee and the Central Committee agreed unanimously that the funeral would be in Cairo if Arafat dies and that he will be buried in Ramallah," Abdelrahim told AFP.

Egyptian presidential spokesman Maged Abdul Fattah earlier confirmed that Cairo had offered to host Palestinian leader Arafat's eventual funeral, which he said would be "limited in scope and restricted to officials."

Israel on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for the eventual burial of Arafat to take place at his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

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