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Last Updated: Friday, 19 November, 2004, 23:32 GMT
Arafat widow given medical file
Yasser Arafat
Arafat died in a Paris hospital of multiple organ failure
France has handed over medical records of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to his widow, her lawyers say.

Suha Arafat obtained the file from the Percy military hospital in Paris, where her husband died.

Her lawyers said she was studying it before deciding whether to make its details public or not.

Palestinian officials asked for the files amid rumours over how he died. France's privacy laws have prevented the cause of death being made public.

Earlier, a senior Palestinian said he expected Arafat's nephew, Nasser al-Kidwa, to pick up the report from the French authorities.

But a lawyer for Mrs Arafat said she received the document at 1545 (1445 GMT) on Friday.

'Historical document'

Palestinian officials will hope she releases the medical files so they can end days of speculation over the cause of his death - including one rumour that he was poisoned by Israeli agents, strongly denied by Israel.

"The decision is in the process of being examined," lawyer Jean-Marie Burguburu told the Associated Press.

We will... take the necessary decisions, including informing the Palestinian people about the full details of the report
Hassan Abu Libdeh
Palestinian cabinet secretary
"The problem is, on the one hand, to try and stop all these false ideas about the death of President Arafat - these rumours.

"Secondly, it's to make sure that there is not any abnormal exploitation of this medical file."

Hassan Abu Libdeh, the Palestinian cabinet secretary, said on Thursday: "The full medical report of President Arafat is a historical document for the Palestinian people.

"We will get the report and the Palestinian Authority will take the necessary decisions, including informing the Palestinian people about the full details of the report."

Mystery illness

The Paris daily Le Monde has said doctors believe Arafat died of a blood clotting disorder called disseminated intravascular coagulation.

But French officials have confirmed very little.

During his illness, French doctors ruled out leukaemia, saying only that Arafat had a low platelet count and a high white blood cell count.

Those symptoms are consistent with a number of illnesses, including cancer, pneumonia, and a blood disorder.

Some French journals have cited sources saying the Palestinian leader had cirrhosis of the liver, which can be caused by various diseases, including hepatitis.

Arafat was flown from Ramallah to the Paris hospital on 29 October and fell into a coma a few days later.

He died on 11 November of multiple organ failure.

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