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Arafat Condition Stable, Bolstered by Messages of Support


Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has undergone another day of medical examinations at the French military hospital where he has been since Friday. Palestinian officials say Mr. Arafat's condition is stable, and that he has been bolstered by messages of support from world leaders and ordinary citizens.

Having ruled out the possibility that the veteran Palestinian leader has leukemia, French doctors continue to try to find out what ails him.

He was evacuated from his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Friday to one of France's most modern and well-equipped hospitals, after suffering severe stomach pains for two weeks.

On Sunday, the 75-year-old leader underwent tests for a possible viral infection. Palestinian officials visiting Mr. Arafat quote doctors as saying he does not have a life-threatening illness.

Leila Shahid, the Palestinian representative in France told reporters, the doctors appear to be satisfied that his condition has stabilized. "The doctors are happy, because his situation is quite stable. He is eating a bit more. He is more active with his environment. He is speaking to people around him," she said.

Ms. Shahid says the presidents of France, Egypt, and Tunisia, and their wives, spoke by telephone with Mr. Arafat's wife, who is by her husband's bedside. She says other messages wishing the Palestinian leader a speedy recovery came from the heads of state of several Arab countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, among others.

But Ms. Shahid says it is the messages of concern and support from ordinary citizens, including an Israeli women's peace group, that have done the most to lift Mr. Arafat's spirit. "All these people have written personal letters to President Arafat, and I consider that this is what I would call the emotional medication, the psychological medication," she said.

Every day since his arrival in France, dozens of people waving Palestinian flags and carrying flowers for Mr. Arafat have gathered outside the hospital in a Paris suburb. They say they not only want to express support for the ailing Palestinian leader, but also show their gratitude to the French government for allowing Mr. Arafat to be treated in France.

The doctors treating Mr. Arafat are refusing to speak to the news media, until they have completed all their examinations. Palestinian officials visiting Mr. Arafat say they do not expect a full diagnosis of their leader's condition until Wednesday.

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