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Arafat in Reversible Coma, Palestinian Representative Says

The Palestinian representative in France, Leila Shahid, has denied reports that the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, is brain dead, but acknowledges that he is in a coma and hovering between life and death.

Speaking on the France's RTL radio station, Ms. Shahid denounced as irresponsible recent news reports that Mr. Arafat was brain dead, and being kept alive by life support equipment.

Ms. Shahid did say Mr. Arafat was in a coma, brought on, she said, when doctors gave him general anesthesia, before conducting some medical tests. She said it may be possible to bring him out of the coma.

There has been a flood of contradictory reports on Mr. Arafat's condition, including some news reports on Thursday that he had died.

Those reports were denied by French and Palestinian officials.

Ms. Shahid told RTL radio that doctors have ruled out leukemia, a hemorrhage and stomach cancer as possible causes for Mr. Arafat's illness. She said they are still not able to determine just what is wrong with the Palestinian leader.

Mrs. Shahid also said Mr. Arafat opened his eyes and smiled at President Jacques Chirac, when the French leader paid him a visit on Thursday. But she said it was impossible to say whether Mr. Arafat actually recognized Mr. Chirac.