The 74-year-old leader has in recent weeks been looking increasingly gaunt.

His health has been the subject of an increasing number of rumours and Aljazeera has previously reported that Arafat has been visited by two separate teams of doctors.

According to Time magazine in the US, Arafat's doctors' current working diagnosis is that he has cancer.

The prognosis for stomach cancer patients depends on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed and treated and the size and location of the tumour.

Treatment

Regardless of the severity of the cancer, such a diagnosis will present a number of thorny issues. The first of these is where to treat him.

The Ram Allah compound in which Arafat has been effectively barricaded for the past two years could conceivably be turned into an operating theatre, though the preferred option would be to take him to hospital. 

But Israel has stated that if Arafat leaves the Occupied Territories, he will not be allowed to return.

However, Dr Ashraf al-Kurdi, the Palestinian leader’s doctor, and gastroenterologist Dr Ala Toukan on Friday both told The Associated Press that Arafat was not suffering from cancer.

 

“President Arafat has a stomach ailment,” al-Kurdi told Fox News in a telephone interview from Amman, Jordan. “Reports that he had a heart attack or is suffering from stomach cancer are completely untrue.”