Arafat to Be Moved to Hospital in Paris
2 hours, 57 minutes ago Top Stories - AP
By LARA SUKHTIAN, Associated Press Writer
RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian officials prepared to move the ailing Yasser Arafat (news - web sites) out of his sandbagged headquarters to a hospital in Paris Thursday as associates described an Palestinian leader who was too weak to stand, appeared confused and spent most of the day sleeping.
Slideshow: Yasser Arafat
Arafat's Ailing Health Appears to Improve
One Palestinian official said earlier he expected Arafat to be flown by helicopter to Amman.
If Arafat were taken to the hospital, it would highlight the severity of the health crisis and mark the first time for him to leave his battered Ramallah headquarters since he was confined there by Israel in 2002.
Israeli officials assured the Palestinians on Thursday that if Arafat recovered, he would be able to return to the West Bank, a prominent Israel-Arab lawmaker said. In the past, Israel was unwilling to make such promises.
Doctors from Jordan, Tunisia and Egypt were by Arafat's side Thursday, monitoring his vital signs in a small clinic at his compound after he collapsed and briefly lost consciousness Wedneday night. Palestinian officials initially tried to play down the health problems, saying he performed Muslim prayers before dawn Thursday and ate a light breakfast of cornflakes and milk.
But a close Arafat associate said the Palestinian leader spent most of the day sleeping. When he awoke, he was moved into a wheelchair because he was very weak and could not stand up, the associate said. At times, Arafat appeared confused, not recognizing some of his visitors, he added.
Arafat has been unable to hold down food, and also suffers from diarrhea, the associate said on condition of anonymity.
Israeli defense officials met Thursday to discuss the possible fallout if Arafat dies. Anxious Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip (news - web sites) waited for any scrap of information about his condition, with many fearing his death would plunge their nation into a profound crisis.
"I was awake all the night," said Imad Samara, a 38-year-old teacher from Gaza City. "I pray to God to save him because we need him, he is the safety valve for everything here, he is the father of all the Palestinians."
Arafat's wife, Suha, arrived at the Ramallah headquarters Thursday after she was called from Tunis to be with her husband. Suha Arafat lives in Paris with their young daughter, and has not seen her husband since 2001.
On Wednesday evening, Arafat's persistent two-week illness had taken a sudden turn for the worse. Arafat vomited after eating soup, then collapsed and was unconscious for about 10 minutes, a bodyguard said.
Palestinian officials initially insisted that Arafat was suffering only from a severe flu, while doctors said he also suffered from a large gallstone. Israeli officials have speculated Arafat is suffering from cancer in the digestive tract.
Arafat has been confined to the sandbagged, partially demolished compound since May 2002. He has been kept inside both by occasional Israeli military blockades and by threats that he would not be allowed to return if he leaves.
Israel, fearing it will be blamed for any further deterioration in Arafat's condition, said Thursday it is ready to lift its travel ban and allow Arafat to leave.
Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmed Tibi, an Arafat confidant, said the promise had come from Dov Weisglass, a senior aide of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites).
However, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (news - web sites) was skeptical. "If Arafat wants to come to Egypt, it would be difficult to get Israeli guarantees to let him go back," Mubarak told reporters in Cairo.
Sharon, in a telephone conversation with his Palestinian counterpart Ahmed Qureia, agreed to allow Arafat to be flown abroad for treatment if necessary, though they did not discuss the question of his returning, a Sharon aide said.
Arafat's health crisis has highlighted how unprepared the Palestinians are for their leader's death, making a chaotic transition period all but inevitable. Arafat has refused to groom a successor, fearing an impatient protege could turn on him.
Two Palestinian leadership groups, the Central Committee of the ruling Fatah (news - web sites) movement and the PLO Executive Committee, planned to meet at Arafat's headquarters later Thursday.
One Palestinian official said Arafat has created a special committee consisting of Qureia, former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, and Salim Zaanoun, head of the Palestinian National Council, to run the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (news - web sites) while he is ill.
But when asked if Arafat had set up such a committee, Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said: "Nothing like that."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan, traveling in Michigan with President Bush (news - web sites), said U.S. officials were monitoring the situation.
Sharon met Thursday with his defense minister, Shaul Mofaz. Israel has prepared contingency plans if Arafat dies, including how to deal with possible riots and prevent Palestinian attempts to bury Arafat in Jerusalem.
Israel has marked a possible burial site for Arafat in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis, in the West Bank, security officials said. The Haaretz daily said Israel has taken the location of the plot into consideration in planning the route of its West Bank separation barrier.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said a Palestinian Authority without Arafat could become a partner for peace. "We always said we would be willing to talk to a Palestinian leadership that would be willing once and for all to bring an end to the bloodshed," Shalom told Israel Radio.
Reports about Arafat's ailment have varied widely. Palestinian officials said he had the flu. Israeli officials speculated he might have stomach cancer, but two of his doctors said Wednesday a blood test and a biopsy of tissue from his digestive tract showed no evidence of that.
On Tuesday, a hospital official said Arafat was suffering from a large gallstone. Israeli officials speculated Arafat had suffered a stroke. Arafat has shown symptoms of Parkinson's disease (news - web sites) since the late 1990s.
During Arafat's long confinement in the Ramallah compound, doctors have equipped two rooms with medical equipment, including X-ray, ultrasound machines and emergency resuscitation gear.
In tests this week, Arafat was in his pajamas and wore a blue wool hat, instead of his trademark black-and-white checkered headscarf, an official on the medical team said.
The medical official said Arafat continues to sleep in a small room, which has only one window and is furnished with a bed and a closet, even though a new, sunnier room has been refurbished for him on another floor.
From his small window, Arafat looks out on rubble and heaps of cars flattened in previous Israeli raids.
Hopefully he's very close to death and will keel over very soon. I thought for sure he'd be dead by the end of the week.
FUCK THE FRENCH… toadying ass licks to their terrorst friends as always… Fuck them and the horse they rode into town on… better still… fuck they WITH the horse they rode into town on.
M-O-O-N, that spells fuck the french
The French suck. Oh, well, I imagine that one of these days Germany will get bored and steamroll them again.
Sounds like something got in his soup?
edited to add====>>>>>>>>>
France blows....... the fact they are a terrorists best friend is no secret. Unfortunately for me I live on a street full of French immigrants & they are all voting for Kerry. They have French stickers plastered all over their cars. They didn't like it when I put a BOYCOTT FRANCE sticker on the back of my car though.