Arafat’s condition improving |

Arafat’s condition improving


PARIS – Yasser Arafat telephoned colleagues in the West Bank, read telegrams from well-wishing world leaders, ate cereal and sipped tea Sunday, his aides said – signs that the Palestinian leader’s health may be on the upswing following three days of urgent treatment for an undisclosed illness at a French military hospital.

There was still no explanation for what caused the recent deterioration in his condition, although Palestinian officials say Arafat’s low blood platelet count is not due to leukemia.

Doctors have not said what might be causing the deficiency, although Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said all types of cancer had been ruled out. However, no doctors or other specialists have publicly confirmed that conclusion.

Doctors were now running tests to determine whether Arafat was suffering from a viral infection, poisoning or some other malady, Palestinian aides said on condition of anonymity. They did not elaborate on what kind of poisoning they meant. Arafat’s doctors in Ramallah last week said toxicology tests ruled out poisoning.

The 75-year-old Arafat’s condition has improved markedly since he was rushed Friday from his besieged Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank to the hospital southwest of Paris, Palestinians said. Arafat ate a normal breakfast, Shaath said from Ramallah in the West Bank.

“He’s much better, he’s really much better, and he’s more cheerful,” Shaath said. “He’s less tired, and we are awaiting a final assessment by the French doctors about the diagnosis.”

Palestinian officials gave conflicting reports on when results from further tests were expected. Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said a medical report would be issued by early Tuesday. Mohammed Rashid, a close Arafat aide, said results were due Wednesday.

“Arafat does not have leukemia,” said Rashid. “It’s been ruled out.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Sunday he would never let Yasser Arafat be buried in Jerusalem but would honor a commitment to allow the Palestinian leader to return to the West Bank when he finishes medical treatment in France.

Meanwhile, senior Palestinian officials held high-level meetings to prove the government was still functioning in Arafat’s absence.

Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, whose efforts to force Arafat to relinquish some power have largely failed, chaired a session of the Palestinian National Security Council, which commands the most important of the myriad Palestinian security forces.

Qureia asked the security chiefs to draw up a list of whatever they need to tighten security in the Palestinian areas and present it to his Cabinet for approval, said Palestinian politician Abbas Zaki. The move apparently was meant to head off chaotic infighting in a post-Arafat period of uncertainty.

In a symbolic gesture, Qureia refused to sit at the head of the table, Arafat’s place.

The Palestinian Legislative Council also met Sunday and the PLO executive committee, which met Saturday, held a second meeting on Sunday.

“In a commitment … to our president, our national symbol, we are convening all our institutions as we used to do when he was present,” said Jibril Rajoub, Arafat’s top security adviser.

French physicians gave Arafat a platelet transfusion after his transfer to the Hopital d’Instruction des Armees de Percy, a military training hospital that specializes in blood disorders and trauma care.

Arafat has been ill for two weeks with what was initially described as bad flu. The Palestinian leader’s symptoms included vomiting and diarrhea. He took a turn for the worse Wednesday when he collapsed and briefly lost consciousness.

Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said Arafat is expected to recover.