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Arafat 'In the Hands of God,' says Palestinian Envoy


A Palestinian official in Paris has again denied chances Yasser Arafat will be taken off life support machines, but in an interview with France Info Radio, a top islamic cleric is in Paris to be at Yasser Arafat's bedside when he dies.

The Palestinian envoy to France, Leila Shahid, described Yasser Arafat as being "In the hands of God." But Mrs. Shahid denied the 75-year-old Palestinian leader was already dead. Mrs. Shahid said French doctors are doing everything they can to save Mr. Arafat's life. We must wait, she said, for what destiny brings to Yasser Arafat.

Mrs. Shahid said that a top Islamic cleric, Sheikh Tamimi, is in Paris to be at Arafat's side in the same way Jews and Christians summon clergy to be beside a dying patient. Mrs. Shahid's remarks are the latest denial by Palestinian officials to widespread reports that the Palestinian leader had died.

Other reports cite French doctors saying that a severe brain hemorrhage that has afflicted Mr. Arafat means he could be dead in a matter of hours. Meanwhile, news reports say Palestinian officials are preparing for funeral ceremonies for Mr. Arafat in Cairo, and a burial in the West Bank city of Ramallah, after getting agreement from Israeli authorities.

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