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Aide Says Arafat Near Death from Brain Hemorrhage

A top aide to Yasser Arafat says the Palestinian leader is suffering from a brain hemorrhage and is near death in a Paris hospital.

Speaking in the West Bank, Tayeb Abdel Rahim said Mr. Arafat started bleeding Monday evening and is in critical condition. He said the Palestinian leadership will convene later today.

The aide also said the decision has been made to bury Mr. Arafat at his leadership compound in Ramallah, West bank.

Earleir, a Palestinian delegation met with Yasser Arafat's doctors in Paris amid news the Palestinian leader's condition had seriously declined.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath told reporters that Mr. Arafat's condition was, as he put it, very difficult and serious. Mr. Shaath spoke after he and other top Palestinian officials met with Mr. Arafat's doctors at the Percy Military Hospital, outside Paris.

Earlier, hospital spokesman Christian Estripeau announced that Mr. Arafat's health had declined sharply in recent hours.

Mr. Estripeau said Mr. Arafat's health had worsened overnight, and that he had fallen into a deeper state of coma. Mr. Estripeau said the 75-year-old Palestinian leaders health had deteriorated to what he called a "significant stage", but he did not elaborate on what exactly that stage might be.

Once again, French officials denied new reports that Mr. Arafat is dead.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Shaath along with two other top Palestinian leaders, Ahmed Qureia and Mahmoud Abbas, met with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier. They were to meet with French President Jacques Chirac later in the day.

The trip by the Palestinian delegation to Paris, to check on Mr. Arafat's condition, was briefly delayed, because of a clash with Mr. Arafat's wife, Suha. Mrs. Arafat had not seen him for three years before his illness. In an interview with the al-Jazeera satellite station, she accused the Palestinians of conspiring to take over Mr. Arafat's powers and of trying to bury her husband alive.

Under French law, Mrs. Arafat has sizable control over the medical information that may be released about her husband, and can make all the decisions about his treatment.