Arafat's failing health triggers concern

Senior Palestinian leaders are said to have been summoned to the West Bank headquarters of Palestinian President Yasir Arafat amid increasing concern over the ageing leader's health.

    Some fears more chaos as Arafat has no named successor

    Conflicting reports about the 75-year-old leader's health led to intense speculations on Wednesday. 

    But a senior Arafat-aide told Aljazeera that the Palestinian president was fine, but needed rest.

    A team of Tunisian doctors were said to be attending to the ailing leader.

    Security alert

    Security forces meanwhile are said to have been put on high alert as confusion over Arafat's condition swept the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    The Palestinian authorities denied reports that Arafat had issued a decree naming a three-man committee, comprising Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya, former premier Mahmud Abbas and Palestine National Council speaker Salim al-Zaanoun.

    Arafat has been holed up in Ram
    Allah for more than two years

    "There is no committee that has been formed, this is not true," said Arafat-aide Nabil Abu Rudeneh.

    Questions over Arafat's health have increased fears of chaos in Palestinian territories because he has not named an obvious successor.

    Israel said it would "permit" Arafat to seek treatment wherever he wished to.

    But an Arafat aide said the Palestinian patriarch preferred treatment at his West Bank headquarters because he feared that if he left, Israel would not allow him to return.

    An Arafat spokesman said medical teams from Egypt and Jordan were expected on Thursday.

    "The president needs more time to rest because of exhaustion," he said.

    Palestinian officials insist Arafat is recovering from a bout of "stomach flu".

    Witnesses said Quraya and Abbas had gone into Arafat's headquarters.

    Officials said the president's wife, Suha Arafat, was expected in Ram Allah from her Paris home on Thursday.

    Arafat underwent a minor diagnostic procedure on Monday after complaining of stomach pains. Palestinian officials said then that an endoscopy found no serious ailment but the president remained weak.

    Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaat said stomach cancer had been ruled out.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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