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France Sending Plane to Airlift Ailing Palestinian Leader

France is sending an airliner to the Middle East to bring Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Paris for emergency medical treatment.

Thursday evening, a spokesman for French President Jacques Chirac called the airlift "imminent." Arafat aides in the West Bank say he will depart the region early Friday morning.

The decision for French treatment was first reported a short while after Mr. Arafat's wife, Suha, who lives in Paris, arrived in the West Bank to join her ailing husband.

Aides to the Palestinian leader say he is in serious but stable condition, suffering from influenza and a gallstone. The Associated Press said he was unable to hold down food this morning.

However, Arafat aides later released a photo showing the smiling Palestinian leader sitting in a wheelchair surrounded by supporters in his Ramallah compound.

Doctors from Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia conferred for several hours before Mr. Arafat's transfer was first reported.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.