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Palestinian Officials Plan Paris Trip to Assess Arafat Condition


Senior Palestinian officials are flying to Paris to consult with doctors on the health of the ailing Yasser Arafat, who went there for medical care in late October. Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath says Mr. Arafat is in stable condition, in what he calls a "reversible" coma.

The Palestinian delegation headed to France Monday will include current Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, also known as Abu Ala, and former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen.

The group will also include Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Sha'ath, who spoke about the 75-year-old Mr. Arafat's health on CNN's Late Edition. "He's in a coma, but it's a reversible coma. All his vital functions are fine, okay. There is no brain damage, no liver damage, no damage at all in his vital organs. But we do not know what is the reason for this coma, and when will he come out of it," he said.

Mr. Sha'ath added that the Palestinian leader's doctors have not determined the cause of the illness, but are satisfied that their tests and examinations have revealed no specific health damage.

These comments were backed up to an extent by French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier on Sunday, who described Mr. Arafat's condition as "very complex" and "very serious," but "stable."

Meantime, Mr. Sha'ath said Mr. Qureia and Mr. Abbas have been working together to run Palestinian affairs in Mr. Arafat's absence. "Everything is going on as usual. People really feel it is their duty to continue, and create as much unity and calm as possible," he said.

Mr. Qureia has been prime minister for a little more than one year. He replaced Mr. Abbas, who resigned after only a few months in office after losing a power struggle with Mr. Arafat over control of the Palestinian security forces.

The emphasis on unity is aimed at preventing an outbreak of violence and chaos in the Palestinian territories if Mr. Arafat dies.

Another issue is, if he does die, where he will be buried. Israel has rejected the Palestinian leader's past calls to be buried in Jerusalem, saying instead that it has completed preparations for him to be buried in Gaza.

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