Arafat Reported Clinically Dead
Arafat Reported Clinically Dead (Reuters)
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was declared clinically dead on Thursday in a French hospital, Israeli television said citing French sources. But Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie denied the report, saying: “I have just spoken to the officials in Paris and they say the situation is still as it was. He is still in the intensive care unit.”
Israel’s Channel Two television cited unnamed sources in Paris saying that Arafat underwent a brain scan and was found to be “no longer alive.” Palestinian sources earlier told Reuters that the Palestinian president, who was admitted to hospital last week with a mysterious stomach illness, had slipped into a coma.
Update (1411): Arafat Fights for Life, Some Powers Transferred (Reuters)
A senior Palestinian official said: “President Arafat is in very serious condition. He is still in a coma. The sense people are getting is that they are increasingly pessimistic.” In the West Bank city of Ramallah a senior Palestinian official said Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie, a leading moderate, had taken over some of Arafat’s powers for security and financing. Arafat has not named a successor and had earlier been reluctant to cede any powers. Palestinian security services were due to hold an emergency meeting in the evening at Arafat’s shell-battered headquarters in Ramallah, security sources said.
The slide into illness of the former guerrilla leader who has dominated the Palestinian scene for four decades has raised fears of chaos among Palestinians waging a 4-year-old uprising. The death of a leader Israel and Washington see as an obstacle to peace could also shuffle the cards in the Middle East conflict.
Asked about the reports that Arafat had been declared dead, U.S. President Bush told a news conference: “My first reaction is God bless his soul.” “And my second reaction is we will continue to work for a free Palestinian state that’s at peace with Israel.”