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Last Updated: Monday, 8 November, 2004, 21:29 GMT
Top Palestinians arrive in Paris
Ahmed Qurei next to the empty chair where Yasser Arafat used to sit, at a meeting of the Palestinian National Security Council
Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei is one of the officials caught up in the row
Senior Palestinian officials have arrived in the French capital, hoping to visit Yasser Arafat in hospital.

They earlier considered calling off the trip amid a row with Mr Arafat's wife.

A top official has demanded an apology from Suha Arafat over her claim the leaders were trying "to bury Arafat while he is still alive".

Later a spokesman at the military hospital in Paris treating Yasser Arafat said the Palestinian leader's condition is unchanged.

We want to hear directly from the doctors about the health of president Arafat
Nabil Shaath

Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, ex-prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath and the speaker of Palestinian Legislative Assembly, Rawhi Fattuh, arrived in Paris late on Monday.

A hospital spokesman said Mr Arafat's condition compelled them to restrict visiting hours.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt, in Paris, says this announcement suggests the Palestinian delegation may find it hard to gain access to their leader.

They may have to persuade French President Jacques Chirac and Foreign Minister Michel Barnier to intervene on their behalf during their meetings with both on Tuesday, our correspondent adds.

'Apologise'

The group boarded a private jet bound for France in the Jordanian capital Amman, after coming from the West Bank city of Ramallah by car.

Mr Qurei said he regretted Suha Arafat's comments, which she made in an emotional telephone call to the Arabic TV station al-Jazeera.

Mr Fattuh has demanded that Mrs Arafat apologise.

He is reported to have told al-Jazeera: "Suha Arafat has to apologise to the Palestinian people because she was harsh to these people."

Deputy cabinet minister Sufian Abu Zaida said Mr Arafat was not his wife's "private property".

"[The Palestinian people] don't know her," he told Israeli radio. "This is a woman who for three years has not seen her husband during all the years of the Intifada ."

'Conspiracy'

Mr Arafat's condition is said to be very serious but stable.

They are trying to bury Abu Ammar alive
Suha Arafat

There has been no official announcement of the cause of his illness since the frail 75-year-old was taken to a military hospital in Paris 10 days ago.

Only a small number of people have had direct access to Mr Arafat in hospital, including Suha Arafat, who lives in the French capital.

"We want to hear directly from the doctors about the health of President Arafat," Mr Shaath told reporters before leaving Ramallah.

Palestinian officials have said the caretaker leadership was frustrated at the lack of information about Mr Arafat's health, which was being filtered by his wife.

But Mrs Arafat said the leaders coming to see her husband were "a clique of those who seek to become inheritors".

"I appeal to you to be aware of the scope of the conspiracy," Mrs Arafat told al-Jazeera. "They are trying to bury Abu Ammar [Arafat's nom de guerre] alive.

"Abu Ammar is well and he is coming back to his homeland."

Burial issue

Yasser Arafat

Rumours have continued to circulate that Mr Arafat has fallen into an irreversible coma - which both his wife and Palestinian officials have denied.

Mr Barnier, speaking on LCI television, said Mr Arafat's condition was "very complex, very serious and stable at the time we are speaking".

The website of the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, said Israeli forces were holding consultations on the security implications of Mr Arafat's death.

HAVE YOUR SAY
One can spot errors in any leader who has led a nation this long
Qaiser Bakhtiari, Minneapolis, USA

The Israeli government said on Sunday it had made plans for Yasser Arafat to be buried in the Gaza Strip.

But Israeli media reports on Monday said plans had been drawn up for an official funeral in the Egyptian capital Cairo, to be followed by a private ceremony in Gaza.

Israel remains opposed to a Palestinian request to allow Mr Arafat to be buried in East Jerusalem.

Palestinian minister Saeb Erekat said it was inappropriate to discuss the burial issue while Mr Arafat was alive.




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How the row with Mrs Arafat developed



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