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Arafat can leave compound for hospital, Israel says

Palestinians: He won't accept, fearing return won't be allowed

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat pauses during a meeting last week at his office in Ramallah.
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Yasser Arafat

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will be allowed to leave his West Bank headquarters for medical treatment, an Israeli official said Monday.

But Palestinian officials denied requesting the medical move and added Arafat would not accept such an offer in any case. Palestinian officials have said Arafat, 75, is suffering from the flu and a stomach virus.

Israel has confined Arafat to his compound in Ramallah since late 2001, accusing him of provoking suicide bombings and other violent acts in the Palestinian uprising that began in September 2000, charges he denies.

An Israeli Defense Ministry official said Monday that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz agreed to a Palestinian request to let Arafat go to a hospital in Ramallah after being examined in his compound by doctors from Tunisia and Egypt.

But the office of Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh denied the authority had made any such request and said Arafat had no intention of going to the Ramallah hospital.

The Palestinian Authority says Arafat should be free to travel wherever he wishes.

Israel has previously said Arafat is free to leave Ramallah but cannot guarantee it will allow him to return.

Arafat has long been reported to have Parkinson's disease. According to aides, he suffers from neurological injuries caused by a near-fatal plane crash in Libya in 1992.

Arafat canceled several meetings last week and missed prayers at the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Palestinian sources said he had a high fever and nausea but recovered and needed to rest, Reuters reported.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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