Accessibility links

Arafat's Physicians Rule Out Leukemia

A Palestinian diplomat says doctors examining Yasser Arafat at a hospital in France have ruled out the possibility for now that the ailing Palestinian leader has leukemia. Mr. Arafat continues to undergo tests for the mysterious illness that befell him two weeks ago.

Leila Shahid, the Palestinian envoy to France, told reporters outside the military hospital where Mr. Arafat has been interned since Friday that doctors have concluded he is not now suffering from leukemia, or cancer of the blood.

"The doctors exclude, for the time being, any possibility of leukemia," said Leila Shahid. "But there are other possibilities, and we are still exploring, the doctors are still exploring, and they will keep on exploring. But we can say that his general condition, between yesterday and today, and between last week - before he came [to France] - and today, is much better, both physically and psychologically."

Earlier in the day, conflicting reports quoted anonymous Palestinian officials as saying Mr. Arafat suffers from a potentially fatal blood disorder, and is nearing death, while others said there is no immediate risk that the 75-year-old leader is dying.

In Ramallah, the town on the West Bank where Mr. Arafat has his headquarters, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat also sought to dispel any speculation that the Palestinian leader's health has gone into a downward spiral.

"We were told to wait for the next 48 hours from French doctors, and not to jump to any conclusions, and they will give us the full report once they finish the tests," said Saeb Erakat.

Mr. Erakat also denied reports that Mr. Arafat had lost his power of speech, or had become incoherent.

The hospital outside Paris to which Mr. Arafat was flown Friday from Ramallah issued a statement saying a diagnosis of the Palestinian leader's condition would be made public as soon as all tests are completed. But the statement did not say when that would be. The hospital also barred visitors, except for family members and his closest aides, from seeing Mr. Arafat.

Meanwhile, in Ramallah, top Palestinian officials met for the first time in several years without Mr. Arafat being present to ensure what one called the smooth functioning of Palestinian institutions. The veteran leader has always refused to name a successor. He has also failed to name someone to oversee those institutions, while he is being treated in France.

But Mr. Erakat says Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia will run the Palestinian Authority during Mr. Arafat's absence, and that former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas will temporarily take charge of the Palestine Liberation Organization.