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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 November, 2004, 12:09 GMT
Arafat aides return to Ramallah
Youths await news in Ramallah
Palestinians are still in the dark about their leader's true condition
A team of senior Palestinian officials has arrived back in the West Bank after visiting the hospital near Paris where Yasser Arafat is lying in a coma.

They are meeting political parties and factions in Ramallah, Mr Arafat's headquarters, and are expected to give an update on their leader's condition.

The Israeli government has agreed to Palestinian plans to bury Mr Arafat in the town, ending weeks of speculation.

An Islamic cleric has arrived in France to be by the Palestinian leader's side.

Taissir Dayut Tamimi is said to be a close friend of the 75-year-old Mr Arafat.

Speaking outside the Percy military hospital in Clamart, he said it was his duty to be at the side of Mr Arafat, and insisted that he was still alive.

Arafat may have given the Palestinians a voice, but the only word it seemed able to utter was 'No'
John R Smith, UK

There was no question of switching off Mr Arafat's life support machine "as long as there is warmth and life in his body", he added.

The Palestinian envoy to France, Leila Shahid, told French radio that Mr Tamimi was not coming "to disconnect" Mr Arafat.

"We think having a religious person beside him in these difficult moments is relevant," said Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, one of the team who visited the hospital on Tuesday.

On his visit, he was accompanied by Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, PLO deputy leader Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian parliamentary speaker Rawhi Fattuh.

Among events scheduled for Wednesday in Ramallah are meetings of Mr Arafat's Fatah movement and the PLO executive committee.

Ramallah grave

The United States has told possible successors to Mr Arafat that it is ready to engage with them when appropriate, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said.

Palestinians on life after Arafat

Mr Shaath said on Tuesday that Mr Arafat's brain, heart and lungs were still functioning and he was "alive".

He said he wanted to "rule out any question of euthanasia" to prematurely bring the leader's life to an end.

"He will live or die depending on his body's ability to resist and on the will of God," he added.

In Ramallah, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed Mr Arafat would be buried there.

"There is no doubt that if President Arafat dies he will be buried at the Muqataa [as Mr Arafat's compound is known]," he told AFP news agency.

The plan has been agreed on by the Israeli government, which ruled out burying Mr Arafat in Jerusalem.

Mystery condition

Egypt has offered to host a funeral ceremony for Mr Arafat at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, allowing Arab leaders to pay their respects without having to pass through Israel for the funeral.

Yasser Arafat

Mr Arafat was taken to France on 29 October, leaving his battered headquarters for the first time in nearly three years. He had been suffering mystery stomach pains.

Doctors have confirmed that Mr Arafat's coma has deepened and that he suffered a brain haemorrhage. However, the reasons for his illness are still not clear.

Mr Shaath said doctors have ruled out cancer and poisoning. He added that Mr Arafat's long confinement in Ramallah by Israeli forces had contributed to his poor health.

Mrs Arafat's wife, Suha, has been controlling access to her husband and on Monday she accused other Palestinian leaders of conspiring against her husband.

They were, she told Arabic TV station al-Jazeera, trying "to bury Arafat while he is still alive".

There has been much confusion about Mr Arafat's condition.

Last week Israeli television reported that he was dead. Other reports, rejected by Mrs Arafat, have suggested he is brain dead.


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