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Palestinian Leaders to Visit Arafat Despite Wife's Objections


Palestinian leaders have left for Paris to consult with French doctors about Yasser Arafat's health, despite vehement objections by Mr. Arafat's wife.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath, and Parliament Speaker Rauhi Fattouh left the West Bank city of Ramallah Monday for Paris to talk with Mr. Arafat's doctors and meet with French officials.

The trip had been planned to start early Monday, but was postponed after Mr. Arafat's wife Suha - in an interview with al-Jazeera television - accused them of plotting against her husband.

Suha Arafat said some of the Palestinian leaders were so eager to get her husband's job they were trying to, in her words, "bury him alive." She insisted her husband was well and would be coming home.

Some Palestinian officials severely criticized Mrs. Arafat's emotional outburst.

Yasser Arafat has been critically ill in a military hospital outside of Paris for more than a week. There has been no official diagnosis of his illness, but plenty of rumors and speculation about the exact state of health.

French medical officials will only say that his condition is critical, but stable.

Some Palestinian officials have said Mr. Arafat is in a coma. Others have denied that.

His illness has resulted in a scramble to prepare for his death. Palestinian leaders and factions have held meetings in the West Bank and Gaza to try to forge a unified stance to avoid chaos or a violent struggle to find a successor.

Israeli security officials have also met to prepare for possible violence.

Then, there remains the question of where to bury the Palestinian leader if he dies from this illness. He has said he wants to be buried in Jerusalem's Old City, something the Israeli government has ruled out. Gaza has been named as a possible burial site.

Analysts speculate that his funeral could be held elsewhere - possibly in Cairo - where foreign leaders, especially from Arab states, could more easily come to pay their respects.

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