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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 18:59 GMT
Arafat 'stable' - French doctors
Supporters hold a vigil outside the French hospital
Arafat's supporters have been holding a vigil at his Paris hospital
A spokesman at the French hospital treating Yasser Arafat says there has been no change in his condition which is now considered to be stable.

Dr Christian Estripeau told reporters: "The state of health of President Yasser Arafat has not deteriorated."

Aides to Mr Arafat said earlier he was in a reversible coma, at a "critical juncture between life and death".

Mr Arafat, 75, has dominated Palestinian politics for 40 years and there is no clear line of succession.

"I can assure that there is no brain death," Leila Shahid, Palestinian envoy to France, told French radio on Friday morning.

At his age [Mr Arafat] is at a critical juncture between life and death
Leila Shahid
Palestinian envoy to France

But medical sources inside the hospital still suggest the Palestinian leader is only breathing with the help of a life support system.

There are rumours of arguments among his closest family and aides as to when or whether to switch it off.

Supporters have been holding a vigil outside the Percy military hospital just outside Paris.

Preparations

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian officials are said to be engaged in talks over a successor.

Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat told the BBC there was no vacuum - and there would be no infighting between Palestinian factions in choosing who should follow Mr Arafat.

Yasser Arafat
Arafat seemed frail as he left the West Bank last week
In Gaza on Friday, Palestinian factions met to discuss what will happen if he dies.

A spokesman for the militant group Hamas, Mushir al-Masri, said the meeting was meant to "strengthen national unity and avoid differences and internal struggle".

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei is expected to meet the factions in Gaza on Saturday.

Mr Qurei has been assigned some of Mr Arafat's powers, making him the effective head of the Palestinian Authority.

Mahmoud Abbas, the former Palestinian prime minister, is reported to have taken over the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Fatah - the biggest faction in the PLO and Mr Arafat's political organisation.

Jerusalem security

There is no clear line of succession to Mr Arafat although the parliamentary speaker would take over temporarily.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Isn't there anyone amongst the Palestinian people who can lead but Arafat?
Majeed Hameed, Baghdad, Iraq

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says it seems almost certain that Mr Arafat's life is gradually drawing to an end.

He was transferred from Ramallah in the West Bank to Paris last Friday with an as yet undiagnosed illness.

He was taken into intensive care on Wednesday.

As the concern over Yasser Arafat's health continues to grow, Israeli authorities have tightened their security measures around the West Bank, barring men under 50 from entering Israel - even with a permit.

Large numbers of police reinforcements have also been dispatched to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. Israel has made it clear it will not allow the Palestinian leader's body to be buried at the mosque.




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