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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 October, 2004, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Arafat undergoing medical tests
Crowds of supporters wave off Yasser Arafat from Ramallah
Crowds of supporters waved off Yasser Arafat from Ramallah
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is undergoing a series of medical tests to find the cause of his mystery illness.

Mr Arafat, 75, is at a military hospital in Paris which specialises in blood disorders, having travelled there from his Ramallah compound on Friday.

Aides said doctors would need another few days to find out what is behind Mr Arafat's stomach pains.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee met for the first time without Mr Arafat.

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who is standing in as PLO chairman during Mr Arafat's absence, chaired the weekly meeting.

Mr Arafat's chair was left empty.

Initial examinations started a few hours ago and results won't be known for another 72 hours
Mohamed Rashid
Arafat aide

A former minister under Abbas, Ziad Amr, told AFP news agency the meeting was aimed at ensuring there is no "constitutional void" should Mr Arafat die or become incapacitated.

The day-to-day affairs of the Palestinian Authority are in the hands of the prime minister, Ahmed Qurei.

He said Palestinian institutions would function normally during Mr Arafat's absence.

Tight security

A senior aide to Mr Arafat, Mohamed Rashid, said doctors treating him still had no diagnosis.

"The initial examinations started only a few hours ago and it's too soon for the results," he told Reuters.

Yasser Arafat and aides
Video footage of Arafat with his aides was shown on Thursday
"They won't be known for another 72 hours."

Mr Arafat had been suffering stomach pains for more than two weeks before his condition worsened sharply on Wednesday night, prompting doctors to recommend treatment abroad.

Blood tests have revealed that he has a low count of platelets - responsible for clotting - but his doctors rejected Israeli suggestions that he could be suffering from stomach cancer.

Security has been tightened at the hospital treating him, which has more than 100 doctors and specialises in blood disorders.

It is the first time in nearly three years that Mr Arafat has left the half-ruined compound in the West Bank, to which he has been confined by Israeli forces.

Sources close to French President Jacques Chirac told the AFP news agency that Mr Chirac personally made the decision to accept a request from the Palestinian Authority to treat Mr Arafat.

Speaking in Rome on Friday, the French president said it was natural for France as "a land of refuge" to admit the Palestinian leader.

'Return assured'

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, who travelled with Mr Arafat to Amman, said his leader had become "very weak, quite frail", with significant weight loss over 16 days of illness.

In Ramallah, Mr Arafat's mother-in-law Reemonda Tawil said the Palestinian leader was in good spirits but people were fearful.

Yasser Arafat
I wish him a speedy recovery
Amin, Birmingham, UK

"We all hope that he will come back safe to us," she said. "It's very moving, everybody is crying.

"He is more than a spiritual leader - he is a father, he is everything to us."

Israel's government has said it will not hinder Mr Arafat's return to the West Bank after his treatment.

But Israeli defence and foreign ministers on Friday suggested they might oppose that position.

Arafat adviser Nabil Abu Rudeinah insisted Israel had agreed to guarantees sought by the US, European and Arab nations that Mr Arafat would be allowed back.

Arafat could remain in hospital for weeks or even months

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Herald Tribune Aides Say Arafat Does Not Have Leukemia - 9 hrs ago
CBS News Leukemia Said Ruled Out For Arafat - 17 hrs ago
San Francisco Chronicle Ailing Arafat undergoes tests - 18 hrs ago
ABCNEWS.com Ailing Arafat Undergoes Tests in French Hospital - 20 hrs ago
Reuters UK Ailing Arafat undergoes tests in France - 20 hrs ago
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