Tue, Nov 02, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Palestinian leader's health is improving, officials say


Palestinian President Yasser Arafat yesterday telephoned colleagues in the West Bank, read telegrams from well-wishing world leaders, ate cereal and sipped tea, his aides said -- signs that the Palestinian leader's health may be on the upswing following three days of urgent treatment for an undisclosed illness at a French military hospital.

There was still no explanation for what caused the recent deterioration in his condition, although Palestinian officials say Arafat's low blood platelet count is not due to leukemia.

Doctors have not said what might be causing the deficiency, although Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said on Sunday all types of cancer had been ruled out. However, no doctors or other specialists have publicly confirmed that conclusion.

Doctors were now running tests to determine whether Arafat was suffering from a viral infection, poisoning or some other malady, Palestinian aides said on condition of anonymity. They did not elaborate on what kind of poisoning they meant. Arafat's doctors in Ramallah last week said toxicology tests ruled out poisoning.

The 75-year-old Arafat's condition has improved markedly since he was rushed on Friday from his besieged Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank to the hospital southwest of Paris, Palestinians said. Arafat ate a normal breakfast, Shaath said from Ramallah in the West Bank.

"He's much better, he's really much better, and he's more cheerful. He's less tired and we are awaiting a final assessment by the French doctors," Shaath said.

Palestinian officials gave conflicting reports on when results from further tests were expected. Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat said a medical report would be issued by early today. Mohammed Rashid, a close Arafat aide, said results were due tomorrow.

"Arafat does not have leukemia," Rashid said. "It's been ruled out. Rule it out."

Platelets are blood components that aid clotting. A low count indicates a possible problem with the bone marrow, where blood cells are made. There are many causes of platelet decline, ranging in severity from minor to life-threatening.

French physicians gave Arafat a platelet transfusion after his transfer to the Hopital d'Instruction des Armees de Percy, a military training hospital that specializes in blood disorders and trauma care.

Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said Arafat is expected to recover, and spent part of Sunday catching up on international and Arab events and reading summaries of telegrams from world leaders who wished him well.

"He is not suffering from any serious problem -- his situation is curable; he will recover very soon. It is better than expected," Abu Rdeneh said.

In the West Bank, Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad tsaid that Arafat sounded coherent and alert during a five-minute telephone conversation on Sunday.

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