Arafat, who doctors say is recuperating from flu, has been effectively confined by Israel to his battered compound, known as the Muqata, for more than two years. 

"It is unfounded that President Arafat requested to go to a Ram Allah hospital," Palestinian cabinet minister Saib Uraiqat said on Monday after Israeli television said Israel had given him permission to leave his headquarters in the city. 

An Israeli security source said Arafat, 75, had received permission from Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz to seek medical treatment in a Ram Allah hospital. 

Palestinian cabinet minister Jamil al-Tarifi acknowledged he recently told Israeli officials that Arafat might need to go to a hospital in the city but said no formal request had been made. 

"Now the president's health is better and he doesn't need to
leave," al-Tarifi said.

Endoscopy performed

However, a cabinet minister said Arafat underwent a minor diagnostic procedure on Monday and doctors found no major ailment after a week of concerns over the Palestinian president's health.

 

Arafat has been confined for
more than two years

"The endoscopy showed that Arafat has no major ailment," Palestinian Telecommunications and Technology Minister Azzam al-Ahmad said after leaving the president's West Bank headquarters, where the procedure was performed.

 

In an endoscopy, a small scope is inserted into the body to evaluate the interior surfaces of an organ. It is also used in minimally-invasive surgery and usually causes only mild discomfort.

Return not guaranteed

Israel has said Arafat could leave the West Bank at will but it would not guarantee his return. Israel accuses Arafat of encouraging anti-Israeli violence in an uprising that began in 2000. Arafat denies the allegation. 

"President Arafat should have the right to travel anywhere he wishes," Uraiqat said. 

Ahmad Tibi, a member of Israel's parliament and a former adviser to Arafat, said on Sunday that Tunisian doctors who examined him on Saturday made the same diagnosis as Egyptian physicians who saw him earlier in the week. 

"The results of the Egyptian and Tunisian checkup are the same - an acute viral infection," Tibi, who is himself a doctor, said on Israeli Army Radio. 

"He is recuperating from an acute case of the flu," said Tibi, who told the station he visited Arafat on Friday. 

Israel's Channel Two television said on Saturday that both teams of doctors concluded that Arafat was suffering from gallstones and had an intestinal infection.