While two officials denied Arafat was comatose, a senior official said the leader is, in fact, in a coma. Another aide told Reuters the 75-year-old leader had “no immunity whatsoever.”
Arafat arrived at Percy Military Training hospital outside Paris last Friday after falling seriously ill. He had collapsed after what some said was the flu. Doctors have been checking for a viral infection and have ruled out leukemia or other cancer.
Palestinian leaders held an emergency meeting in the West Bank Thursday and remained in contact with Arafat’s hospital every 30 minutes, according to Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath.
“The Palestinian leadership is in constant meeting to follow up on the president’s health,” Shaath said from Ramallah, the Associated Press reported.
Israeli military commanders were put on standby and security officials were meeting to discuss the impact of Arafat’s death. The Israeli army has a plan called “new leaf” to deal with potential fallout.
Israel’s plans include ways to keep Arafat from being buried in Jerusalem — something Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said he would forbid.
While Israel prepares its plans for Arafat’s death, some Palestinian officials continue to deny Arafat’s health is deteriorating.
“Last night, several blood and bone marrow tests were done that required the president to be in an isolation unit for several hours, and there is not truth to any of the reports that he is in a coma,” Mohammed Rashid, Arafat’s financial adviser, said.
French President Jacques Chirac visited Arafat and his wife “to whom he expressed his best wishes,” Chirac’s office said. The president also met with members of the Palestinian Authority and doctors “who are doing everything possible for the health of the president,” Chirac’s office added, the AP reported.
The visit lasted 30 minutes.
French television station LCI quoted an anonymous medical official as saying Arafat was in an “irreversible coma” and was “intubated.”
Arafat, who has been confined to his Ramallah headquarters for more than two years, has not named a successor to lead the Palestinian Authority.
According to Israel Radio, Mahmoud Abbas, the number two ranking member of Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization and the first prime minister, was headed to Paris to see Arafat Thursday.
On Wednesday Rashid issued a statement on Arafat’s behalf offering President Bush congratulations on his re-election.
“He hopes that Bush’s second term will be an important opportunity for Bush to secure the requirements for peace in the Middle East and to guarantee the just national rights of the Palestinian people,” Rashid said.